[Ballets Russes] [Nijinsky, Waslaw. (1889-1950)] [Diaghilev, Sergei. (1872-1929)]
Original 1913 Ballets Russes Program
Opulent original program from a 8ieme Saison performance of the Ballets Russes at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées on May 17, 1913. In the newly opened theatre, just two weeks before the infamous premiere of The Rite of Spring, Diaghilev's celebrated company performed the popular ballets of the previous few seasons: L'Oiseau de Feu, Prélude à l'Après-midi d'un Faune, Le Spectre de la Rose, and Danses Polovtsiennes du "Prince Igor," to music by Stravinsky, Debussy, Weber, and Borodin. The orchestra was conducted by the young Pierre Monteux. Scenery and costumes were by Bakst, Golovine, and N. Roerich. The program, lavishly decorated with gold, includes portraits of the principal dancers (including Nijinsky, Nijinska Bolm, Karsavina), fashion plates, and stylish advertisements. The cover features a boldly colored image by Fyodor Fedorovsky of Koschei from The Firebird.
52 pp. Significant wear to the cover, which has become detached from the inner pages. Inner pages remain intact, with only smudging to the title page and final page; internal pages still in fine condition. Overall a beautiful souvenir of the heyday of the Ballets Russes, in very good condition. 7.5 x 11 inches (19 x 28.5 cm).
Stravinsky's Firebird had been a magnificent success from its first performance in the Ballets Russes' 1910 season. As the composer's first commission from Diaghilev, it was the beginning of many significant collaborations and the piece that propelled Stravinsky to stardom. His music, combined with Michel Fokine's choreography, the lavish scenery and costumes by Golovine and Bakst, and star roles for Tamar Karsavina and Adolph Bohm, created a lasting hit.
Prélude à l'Après-midi d'un Faune, one of Nijinsky's star roles, had premiered in May 1912 with music composed in 1894 by Claude Debussy. In this groundbreaking work, the dancers were presented as part of a large tableau, a staging reminiscent of an ancient Greek vase painting. The work had an overtly erotic subtext beneath its façade of Greek antiquity, ending with a scene of graphic sexual desire. Spectre de la Rose, which had premiered in 1911, was another showcase for Nijinsky's talents, starring him as the Rose opposite Tamar Karsavina as the Young Girl. Nijinsky dazzled in his petal-covered costume, designed by Leon Bakst, with an androgynous strength and delicacy in his movements.
The final work on the program, Danses Polovtsiennes, dated from the 1909 season, in which Nijinsky and his sister had first joined the company. Fokine's choreography, to music from Borodin's opera Prince Igor, showcased the corps de ballet almost as a soloist in itself, with Adolph Bolm also dancing an important principal role. Although not as revolutionary as some of their repertoire, the work remained popular in the Ballets Russes repertory until 1929.