Diaghilev, Sergei

BORN 31 Mar 1872, Selistchev-kazerne, Novgorod - DIED 19 Aug 1929, Venezia, Veneto
BIRTH NAME Diaghilev, Sergei Pavlovic
GRAVE LOCATION Venezia, Veneto: Cimetero di San Michele, Isola San Michele (Recinto greco lungo parete fondo sx)

Sergei Diaghilev was born into a wealthy family. His father was a coonel in the cavalry and the family money came from wodka distilleries. After his mother died his father married Elena Valerianovna Panaeva. She was artistic and strongly influenced Sergei. After his father went bankrupt in 1890 he had to support the family from the small inheritance that he had received from his mother.

He went St. Petersburg to study law, but he also studied singing and music at the Conservatory. But his professor Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov told him he had no talent for music. In 1899 he founded the art group Mir Iskoustva together with Alexandre Benoit and Léon Bakst. In the same year he became the assistant to Prince Sergei Mikhaylovich Volkonsky, who was the director of the imperial theatres. In 1900 he staged Léo Delibes' ballet "Sylvia", but Volkonsky fired him in 1901. Possibly his homosexuality was one of the reasons for his dismissal.

In 1905 he organised an exhitition of Russian portrait painting at the Tauride Palace in St. Petersburg. and in 1906 an exhibition of Russian art at the Petit Palais in Paris. In 1907 he staged a number of concerts of Russian music in Paris. In 1909 he launched his Ballets Russes in Paris. Among the dancers were Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky and it was a huge succes. Nijinsky was also his lover. Diaghilev staged music from Debussy, Ravel, Satie, Richard Strauss and many other composers. He succesfully collaborated with Igor Stravinsky in "Petrushka" (1911) and "The Rite of Spring" (1913). When Nijinski married in 1913 he was dismissed from the Ballets Russes by Diaghilev.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917 he stayed in France. In 1921 he staged "The Sleeping Beauty" by Tchaikovsky in London. His last lover was Igor Markevitch, who would marry Nijinski's daughter. Diaghilev died of diabetes in Venice in 1929 and was buried at the Cimitero di San Michele.

Related persons
• cooperated with Ansermet, Ernest
• cooperated with Bakst, Léon
• was painted by Bakst, Léon
• employed Laurencin, Marie
• was the lover of Lifar, Serge
• employed Matisse, Henri
• cooperated with Nijinski, Vaslav
• cooperated with Stravinsky, Igor
• employed Utrillo, Maurice

29/5/1913Premiere of Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du Printemps" in Paris. The ballet was performed by Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes at the Théatre des Champs-Elysées in Paris. The choreographer was Vaslav Nijinski and he swept the floor with old ballet conventions. The shouting and whistling from proponents and opponents in the audience was so loud that the dancers were unable to hear the music. It was a traumatic experience for the cast. Stravinsky fell ill with typhus a few days later but he recovered quickly. [Nijinski, Vaslav][Stravinsky, Igor]


The grave of Sergej Diaghilev at the Cimitero di San Michele, Venice.
Picture by Androom (13 Feb 2016)


• Bremser, Martha [Ed.], International Dictionary of Ballet, St. James Press, Detroit, Michigan, 1993
Sergei Diaghilev - Wikipedia

Díaz de la Peña, Narcisse

Published: 20 Sep 2020
Last update: 19 Apr 2022