Diaghilev’s always in season
In July 2014 Les Saisons Russes du XX1e Siecle are returning to the London Coliseum with their faithful recreations of the ballets of Sergei Diaghilev. Alongside more familiar fare such as Petrushka, Chopiniana, Polovtsian Dances and Swan Lake, this year they’re also presenting a special gala and the UK premiere of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera-ballet for children Le Coq D’Or (The Golden Cockerel).
Already named in Principal roles in the varied programme are Ekaterina Borchenko and Viktor Lebedev from the Mihailovsky Theatre; Alexander Timofeeva and Artem Yachmennicov of the Kremlin Ballet; and Ludmila Konovalova and Vladimir Shishov from the Vienna State Opera. And there’s more to come.
Dancing Review spoke to the company’s Artistic Director Andris Liepa about the forthcoming London shows and his devotion to the work of Diaghilev.
Dancing Review (DR): Why did you decide to re-imagine The Golden Cockerel?
Andris Liepa (AL): The idea came to me 20 years ago but at the time I didn’t have access to a company with ballet dancers, opera singers and an orchestra who wanted to do the old version. I did some productions at the Rome Opera, Marseille and at Dresden Opera House but they either didn’t want to do an old production or they couldn’t combine ballet and opera so it was difficult to find a partner. Then I met Georgiy Isaakyan, Artistic Director of the Natalia Sats State Opera and Ballet Theatre for Young Audiences in Moscow. Right away I knew he’d make a great artistic partner; we think in the same way and we’re constantly play ping pong with ideas.
DR: Why was it important to re-create Natalia Goncharova sets and designs?
AL: There are five or six versions of Le Coq D’Or and Goncharova designed many different costumes but there’s a lot of film footage, photos and fabric samples available so we went through everything to work out which ones were the best. They actually show what a genius she was; when you see an exhibition of her paintings and sketches you don’t get the full scale of her talent but when you put up some of her designs at the back of the stage, they’re huge, beautiful and dramatic.
DR: In what ways do Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes remain culturally significant in the 21st century?
AL: Let me call Diaghilev Peter the Great; he did more for Russian art than anybody else. He was a creator, a revolutionary and way ahead of his time – I’m just a restorer paying great care and attention to what he did. I’m on a mission in the 21st century to show people how it was done in the 20th. Young designers, choreographers and musicians should come and see his productions to see how brilliantly they were done so that they can go away afterwards and create something of their own.
Les Saisons Russes du XX1e Siecle’s shows run from 8-19 July 2014. Tickets and full programme information can be found on the London Coliseum website.