Diaghilev reloaded

Diaghilev reloaded

The second ‘Diaghilev. P.S.’ festival brings a host of dance performances, concerts and exhibitions to the city.

Published: October 26, 2011 (Issue # 1680)


The Russian premiere of Angelin Preljocaj’s ballet ‘Snow White’ looks set to be a festival highlight.

The legendary impresario Sergei Diaghilev may have died 82 years ago, but his spirit is alive and well in St. Petersburg this week as the second “Diaghilev. P.S.” festival gets underway.

While the first festival, held in the city two years ago, presented a cycle of ballets, exhibitions and concerts directly linked to the Russian Seasons to celebrate 100 years since Diaghilev took European capitals by storm with his showcase of Russian ballet, art and music, this year’s program delves deeper into the legacy of the showman and patron of the arts.

The festival opened Sunday with a concert by U.S. conductor Scott Dunn of Vladimir Dukelsky’s “Orpheus Trilogy.” Dukelsky, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1922 and is known there as Vernon Duke, was considered by Diaghilev to be his “third musical son” after Stravinsky and Prokofiev. Sunday’s concert at the Philharmonic represented a rare performance of the composer’s music in his native country.

“He would have been so happy,” said Dukelsky’s widow, Kay Duke Ingalls, after the concert. “He always dreamed of his concert music being played in his native country. He left Russia after the Revolution, and came back just once.”

“Diaghilev was instrumental in the careers of so many composers: Stravinsky, Satie and Ravel, to name just a few,” said Dunn at a press conference last week. “His importance in the composition of early 20th-century concert music cannot be overestimated.”

During his lifetime, Diaghilev brought together an unprecedented wealth of musicians, dancers and artists. Ballet scores and operas were composed for him by Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Debussy, Ravel, Satie and Richard Strauss, while his choreographers included Fokin, Nijinsky and Balanchine. Exotic, evocative sets were designed by the leading artists of the time, including Nikolai Roerich, Alexander Benois, Leon Bakst and later Pablo Picasso. Diaghilev’s quest to break with tradition and establish original directions in the field of ballet influenced its development for decades after his death in 1929.


The ballet will be performed on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

With this in mind, a highlight of this year’s festival looks set to be the Russian premiere of Angelin Preljocaj’s ballet “Snow White” set to music by Gustav Mahler with costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier. The ballet will be performed two nights running, on Wednesday and Thursday, at the Alexandriinsky Theater.

With the inclusion of a work not directly related to Diaghilev himself (though Preljocaj has in the past choreographed stagings of several ballets originally commissioned by Diaghilev), the festival’s organizers are expanding the project’s scope to include work that simply encapsulates the innovative and daring spirit of the impresario.

“It’s surprising that no one thought before 2008 of doing something with such a classic St. Petersburg brand as Sergei Diaghilev — the whole world knows him; it’s a magical name,” said Natalya Metelitsa, the festival’s artistic director. “We wanted to show all the diverse sides of Diaghilev.”

And indeed, the festival is nothing if not diverse. A dance show titled “The Two Poles of Dance” featuring performances by both the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet and the Top 9 contemporary dance troupe at the Hermitage Theater on Thursday will demonstrate both extremes of the world of dance.

In keeping with the festival’s fledgling traditions, this week will also see a host of exhibitions open around the city, showcasing artists both old and new.

To complement a series of international academic conferences focusing on Diaghilev and his contemporaries held earlier in the week, an exhibition of work by artists Leon Bakst, Alexander Benois, Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov, who worked closely with the impresario, is on show at the Rimsky Korsakov Apartment Museum.


Costumes for the ballet ‘Snow White’ were designed by French haute couture designer Jean Paul Gaultier.

In contrast, work by contemporary young artists devoted to Diaghilev is on show at the Anna Nova gallery, after the gallery’s representatives approached the festival’s organizers and proposed an exhibition titled “Contemporary Artists on the Russian Seasons and Sergei Diaghilev.” The show, which opened Tuesday, presents the work of several local artists including Pyotr Shvetsov, Valery Katsuby and Stas Bags.

Further proof of the festival’s broad scope is offered Wednesday, when an exhibition titled “Maria Callas Forever” is due to open at the Sheremetyev Palace. Items on show include costumes, photographs, sketches and personal items belonging to the celebrated soprano, who died in 1977.

Finally, on Friday, the day of the festival’s closing ceremony at the Sheremetyev Palace, an exhibition of tapestries titled “Eye to Eye. Diaghilev and Nijinsky” will open at the Theatrical and Musical Arts Museum.

For a full festival program,

see www.diaghilev-ps.ru.

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