Inspiring Ballet Russes Anniversary show in London

The international auction house Bonhams is to host a major exhibition marking the 110th anniversary of the Ballets Russes, the ground breaking company founded by impresario Serge Diaghilev in 1909. In Pursuit of the Firebird: A Ballets Russes Exhibition at Bonhams will run at 101 New Bond Street from Tuesday 28 May – Wednesday 5 June inclusive.

The exhibition will focus on The Firebird, a ballet presented during the Ballets Russes Paris season in 1910 with music by Igor Stravinsky. It was the composer's breakthrough work, and the first of his many important collaborations with Diaghilev. On display will be costumes by Alexander Golovin for the original 1910 production, modified for the 1926 revival by Natalia Goncharova and Vera Sudeikina (who married Stravinsky in 1940). Some of the costumes were also used in later productions of The Firebird by the short- lived Ballets Russes de Monte-Carlo set up by Wassily de Basil in 1932 after the original company had been dissolved, following Diaghilev's sudden death in 1929.

The costumes will be displayed alongside 24 costume designs for The Sleeping Beauty by Sergey Sudeikin (Vera's first husband), as well as other costume and stage designs.

The Firebird is based on Russian folk tales, and at its premiere was hailed by critics as an ideal synthesis of music, choreography and design, with each element perfectly complementing the others. It drew on many talents; Alexander Benois, for example, co-wrote the scenario with Michel Fokine who also choreographed the work; Golovin had overall responsibility for both sets and costumes. The ballet was an instant success and over the years has attracted many of the world's leading choreographers to produce their own interpretations of the work.

Ballets Russes
Established in 1909, by the impresario Serge Diaghilev (1872-1929), the Ballets Russes revolutionised the art by coordinating movement, music and design in thematic harmony. He brought together some of the greatest early 20th century talents in music, dance and painting including, Nijinsky, Karsavina, Fokine, Stravinsky, Ravel, Golovin, Bakst, Picasso and Matisse. Diaghilev was the driving force behind the success of Ballets Russes, and, on his death in 1929, the original company came to an end.


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