[Ballets Russes]

Comœdia Illustré No17: La Saison Russe a l'Opéra - June 1910 Special Issue

Revue Artistique bi-mensuelle - 2ème année - N°17 - 1er juin 1910. A fine example of the opulent special issue of the illustrated magazine devoted to the second Russian Ballets Russes season in Paris performed at the beautiful building of the Grand Opera, featuring illustrations by Leon Bakst and photographs of Nijinsky, Ida Rubinstein, Tamar Karsavina, Anna Pavlova, Michel Fokine, Catherine Gheltzer, Lubov Tchernicheva, Fokina and many others. The cover bears a striking costume design by Bakst, while the bound-in souvenir program shows Tamar Karsavina and Nijinsky in Sylphides. The 1910 repertoire of the Ballets Russes, listed on the first page, included L'Oiseau de Feu (in its first performance), Shéhérezade, Carnaval, Orientales, Giselle, Cléopatre, Les Sylphides, Le Festin, and Danses Polovtsiennes du 'Prince Igor," with music by Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Schumann, Borodin, and others. The season's troupe included Karsavina, Fedorova, Rubinstein, Fokine, Fokina, and Nijinsky and Nijinska (in their second season with the company). The program also includes many pages of decorative Parisian advertising.

Folio. 48 pp. Bound with staples and decorative green cord. Wear to spine, with rust to staples, edge wear and soiling and some small tears; internally clean and overall in very good condition. 9.75 x 12.5 inches (25 x 32.2 cm).

The 1910 programme featured newly created pieces, such as Giselle, Les Orientales and Le Carnaval, and previously staged ballets like Le Festin, Les Sylphides and Cléopâtre. The star of the season was young Stravinsky's Firebird, which was first performed on 25 June 1910 and became an instant success with both audience and critics. 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. 

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.

Another piece produced specially for the second season was Schéhérazade. Described by Alexander Benois as "a wonderful spectacle to which I can hardly find a parallel", it was the first true creation of the Ballet Russes, because, except for the opera Prince Igor, all the other ballets in Diaghilev's first Paris season were fresh versions of already existing works. For financial reasons Diaghilev could not include any opera in his 1910 season, so for the first time he risked presenting only ballets. The cover of the 1910 issue features the famous colour photograph of Nijinsky and Karsavina in the ballet Les Sylphides. A four-page article titled "La saison russe à l'Opéra" presents the pieces scheduled for the season and shows pictures of some of the most famous Russian dancers – such as Fokina, Nijinsky and Gorchkova – in their beautiful costumes designed by Leon Bakst. Comoedia Illustré was a bimonthly artistic magazine published from 1908 to 1936 as a supplement to Comoedia. The latter was a French cultural periodical founded by Henri Desgrange, a French cyclist and sports journalist, who gained fame as the first organiser of the Tour de France. Comoedia Illustré played a crucial role in popularising the Russian ballet and making the programmes of Russian seasons available to the French public hungry for Russian exotics. Boris Kochno, Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes (Harper & Row, NY, 1970); The Russian Season in Paris : Sketches of the Scenery and Costumes 1908 - 1929 (Isskustvo Art Publishers, Moscow, 1988); Alexander Schouvaloff, The Art of Ballets Russes (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1997). (15168)

Unsigned Photograph
Program, unsigned