Tag Archives: Sergei Diaghilev

Šalâpin and Diaghilev


In 1906, at the age of 34, Serge Diaghilev made his first impact on Western Europe with a widely acclaimed exhibition of Russian art in Paris; he followed this success with well-received concerts of Russian music in 1907 and 1908, which included the Western European debut of the celebrated Russian bass Fëdor Ivanovič Šalâpin.

Even these achievements were overshadowed by the rapturous reception of the newly formed Ballets Russes in 1909, which performed the entire second act of Borodin’s Knâz’  Igor’ (Prince Igor), featuring the singing of Šalâpin and the dancing of the now-famous Poloveckie plâski (Polovtsian dances).

In 1913 Diaghilev produced performances featuring Šalâpin in both Paris and London. An archival document from that year records Šalâpin’s payment for an extra performance of Musorgskij’s Boris Godunov in London; at the bottom one can see the singer’s handwritten note: Finito!

This according to “Diaghilev, Chaliapine, and their contracts” by Cecil Hopkinson (The music review XXV/2 [May 1964] pp. 149–53). The article also includes full English translations of Šalâpin’s contracts with Diaghilev for the 1909 and 1913 seasons.

Above, Šalâpin with a different associate in 1929; below, a performance of a scene from Godunov in 1927.

Related article: Rahmaninov and Tolstoj

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Filed under Opera

The riot at the Rite

Le sacre 1913

Historians have based their explanations for the tumultuous 1913 première of Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps on the accounts (none published before 1935) of the participants—Stravinsky, Diaghilev, Nijinsky, and Monteux.

Due to these accounts, for years it has been believed that either the choreography or the revolutionary score was the cause of the riot in the audience, and that the uproar was a spontaneous reaction to the performance.

However, an examination of contemporary newspaper and journal reviews and an understanding of the personal and political characteristics of Sergei Diaghilev reveals that the riot was actually anticipated and encouraged by the management of the Ballets Russes. The earliest reviews published in Paris offer a wealth of material relating to cultural values of the age.

This according to “The riot at the Rite: Not so surprising after all” by Truman C. Bullard, an article included in Essays on music for Charles Warren Fox (Rochester: Eastman School of Music, 1979, pp. 206–211).

Today is the 100th anniversary of Le sacre’s premiere! Above, a photograph from the original Ballets Russes production; below, part of the BBC’s dramatization from 2009.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Curiosities, Dance