Sergei Diaghilev (1872­1929)

Diaghilev was a Russian ballet impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes from which many famous dancers and choreographers would later arise. In 1905 he mounted an exhibition of Russian portrait painting in St.Petersburg and in the following year took a major exhibition of Russian art to the Petit Palais in Paris. It was the beginning of a long involvement with France. In 1907 he presented five concerts of Russian music in Paris, and in 1908 mounted a production of Boris Godunov, starring Fyodor Chaliapin, at the Paris Opera. This led to an invitation to return the following year with ballet as well as opera, and thus to the launching of his famous Ballets Russes. The company included the best young Russian dancers, among them Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky, and their first night on 19 May 1909 was a sensation. The artistic director for the Ballets Russes was Leon Bakst, whose connection with Diaghilev extended back to 1898, when he, Diaghilev and Alexander Benois founded the avant-garde group ĞMir Iskusstvağ. Together they developed a more complicated form of ballet with show-elements intended to appeal to the general public, rather than solely the aristocracy.

Photo: Diaghilev with his company, 1916