Russian Seasons Abroad

Russian Seasons Abroad


performances of Russian opera and ballet organized in 1907 by S. P. Diaghilev. They were supported by artistic groups of the Russian intelligentsia, such as The World of Art (Mir Iskusstva) and the musical Beliaev Circle.

The performances began in Paris with historic concerts featuring N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov, S. V. Rachmaninoff, A. K. Glazunov, and F. I. Chaliapin. In the period 1908–09 such operas as Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Maid of Pskov were performed. A ballet troupe was formed with artists from the Mariinskii and Bolshoi Theaters, including A. Pavlova, E. V. Gel’tser, and V. Nijinsky, with engagements in Paris every year beginning in 1909 and periodically, beginning in 1910, in Berlin, Brussels, Monte Carlo, London, Budapest, and other European cities. In 1909, M. Fokine, choreographer for the first Seasons, presented new versions of N. N. Cherepnin’s Le Pavilion d’Armide, Les Sylphides (Chopiniana, to music by Chopin), and other ballets. He also staged the Polovetsian Dances from Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, Stravinsky’s Firebird and Petrouchka, Cherepnin’s Narcisse et Echo, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade. In 1912 and 1913, Nijinsky staged the ballets The Afternoon of a Faun by Debussy and The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky.

The high level of performing art and the richness of Russian music made the Russian Seasons Abroad a significant artistic phenomenon. The performances were of great importance in popularizing Russian opera and ballet. The stage sets and costumes were designed by A. N. Benois, L. S. Bakst, A. Ia. Golovin, V. A. Serov, N. K. Rerikh, and N. S. Goncharova, whose artistry and craftsmanship influenced the development of world stage design in the first quarter of the 20th century.

Although it continued until 1929, Diaghilev’s enterprise gradually became filled with foreign dancers and lost its Russian national character. Music for the Seasons was composed by I. F. Stravinsky, S. S. Prokofiev, M. Ravel, composers of “Les Six,” and others. Other choreographers included L. Massine, G. Balanchine, and B. Nijinska. Other set designers included P. Picasso and A. Derain.


Sokolova, N. Mir iskusstva. Moscow-Leningrad, 1934.
Krasovskaia, V. Russkii baletnyi teatr nachala XX veka, part 1. Leningrad, 1971.
Lieven, P. The Birth of Ballet-Russes. London, 1936.
Benois, A. Reminiscences of the Russian Ballet. London, 1947.


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