Falling off the front of the building

Theatre and Performance
December 14, 2010


There is now less than a month to go to see the Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes 1909-1929 exhibition and its good to find that we are still getting (mostly) favourable reviews of the exhibition and the book. The book has now been reprinted and those towers of copies in the V&A bookshop restored! The Shop is still full of souvenirs a few of which have been discounted including the series of books produced by the State Museum of Theatre and Music in St Petersburg on Pavlova, Nijinsky, Kschesinskaya and Spessivtseva. They were rather expensive but now very much more reasonable (for visitors) – and not readily available elsewhere in Britain.

But as the end comes nearer our presence on the exterior of the building diminishes. The bold banners are still there but the orange Diaghilev boards have been replaced by those advertising other events. This is because there is so much happening at the V&A. The most recent addition is Imperial Chinese Robes from the Forbidden City which are on show in Europe for the first time. Looking at these exquisite garments in superb condition I am reminded of Alexandre Benois’ designs for Stravinsky’s opera, Le Rossignol, presented by Diaghilev in 1914 which was visually inspired by Benois’ collection of Chinese prints. It was in fact one of his own productions that satisfied Benois the most and in his Reminiscences of the Russian Ballet he regreted that after its performances in London ‘it was buried in the cellars of Drury Lane, where half the settings and costumes perished during the years of the War’. Le Rossignol was one of the productions we could not include in the exhibition given our need to be selective.

A visitors’ book has now appeared at the end of the exhibition and one visitor has complained about the lack of information in the exhibition on one of the numerous planed but unrealised productions. In fact more than two dozen produced ballets get no mention in the exhibition and some of the others only find their way in via the AVs. It must be noted that contrary to some reviews Apollon Musagette is not one of those left out! OK so visitors can now play the game of which works are missing a task made easier with the list of productions in the book to accompany the exhibition.

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