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    The performance was played without a director // Diaghilev. General rehearsal” in the Tretyakov Gallery

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    In the New Tretyakov Gallery, with the support of VTB, the exhibition “Diaghilev. General rehearsal”, dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great impresario. Tatyana Kuznetsova tells.

    The Tretyakov exhibition for the anniversary of Diaghilev was conceived differently – huge, international and, probably, with a different concept. But the organizers, who urgently had to come up with a new exhibition due to the consequences of a special military operation, do not talk about this. On the contrary, they emphasize the fundamental integrity of the exposition, all of whose exhibits belong to the Tretyakov Gallery, and call it a “dress rehearsal” of the future Sergei Diaghilev Hall – it should appear after the reconstruction of the building on Krymsky Val is completed.

    However, this is a secondary meaning of the name of the exhibition, which the curators Yevgenia Ilyukhina and Irina Shumanova conceived as a demonstration of the preparation of the performance – that same rehearsal whirlwind, at the epicenter of which Diaghilev was invariably, charging all his comrades-in-arms with unparalleled energy. The Tretyakov Gallery’s play in the theater begins with the poster of the exhibition, on which Zelfira Tregulova is called the “director of the entreprise”, the curators are “choreographers”, there are “soloists”, “luminaries”. And of course, the “artists” – Sergei Tchoban and Alexandra Sheiner, who were called upon to build a theatrical backstage with “dressing rooms”, “fitting rooms”, “tailoring workshop”, littered with backstage scenery. Frankly, the architects managed to reproduce only the simplest – a “rehearsal room” with mirror walls and ballet bars. The main exposition is a long suite of a dozen rooms, cut by rather dull partitions. The theatrical purpose of the halls is not easy to identify – for example, the first of them, freed from partitions, with posters on the walls, a bookcase and black pointe shoes by Tamara Karsavina from the ballet “Carnival”, is called a “dressing room”, but bears little resemblance to a comfortably lived-in personal acting space.

    It is difficult to find Diaghilev himself at the exhibition. And not because there is no material appearance (although there are really too few portraits and photographs of the impresario). The main thing is that there are no traces of his spiritual presence in the entreprise, his will, his energy, relationships with people and with time. Simply put, there is no context: the exhibits related to this or that ballet hang in the airless space of short information – the names of the authors, the date and place of the premiere.

    Meanwhile, the exhibition has something explain. Largely based on the richest archive of Larionov, donated to the Tretyakov Gallery in 1989 by the second wife of the artist Larionova-Tomilina, the exposition, bypassing the “World of Art” period familiar to everyone, jumps immediately to 1915, when Diaghilev’s friendship with the couple of artists began, at that time how the entreprise itself, due to the First World War, found itself on the verge of collapse, experienced a rebirth. In peaceful Switzerland, where Igor Stravinsky settled, Diaghilev created new “Ballets Russes” – with the novice 18-year-old choreographer Leonid Myasin, with the modernists Goncharova and Larionov, with a semi-foreign troupe assembled throughout Europe by ballet director Sergei Grigoriev, with a new, defiantly Russian repertoire.

    Actually, Diaghilev performed an aesthetic somersault back in 1914, when he first engaged Natalya Goncharova to stage the opera The Golden Cockerel. Several halls given over to performances created (as well as unfinished, such as, for example, Liturgy) at that time, demonstrate the sovereignty of Diaghilev’s new protégés. It is impossible to imagine dancing artists in these three-dimensional, asymmetrical, bristling costumes, in these gigantic kokoshniks, with stocks on their feet – as, say, in the wonderful sketch of Larionov’s Leshy. The stunningly bright, powerful and self-sufficient sketches by Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov for Midnight Sun, Golden Cockerel, Russian Fairy Tales, Jester (who saw the scene only in 1921, after the war) are a performance in themselves; dressed in such costumes, real artists are just moving scenery. Nijinskys and Karsavins are not needed for these performances, which eliminates the problem of the enterprise, which lost its main stars due to the war. The complaisant young Massine is no match for the proud Fokin, the main author of the first seasons: he is ready to adapt to the artists’ fantasies, finding movements that can be performed in their extravagant designs. An example of such a choreography is a priceless black-and-white film fragment of “Midnight Sun” of the late 1930s performed by the troupe of Colonel de Basil – presented at the exhibition. Russian Seasons costumes purchased by the Tretyakov Gallery in 2019 from Ivor and Olga Mazur. And although the main acquisition – a gigantic, 23 by 10 meters, backdrop by Nicholas Roerich for “Polovtsian Dances” – is under restoration and will appear before the public only by the end of 2023, on the anniversary of Roerich, 13 costumes shown at the exhibition were able to compete with the sketches of modernists. Emphatically lapidary and busy, fine handmade, with sewing and appliqués, they looked quite “dancing”, representing other stages in the life of an enterprise. Roerich’s woolen shirt of the Girl from The Rite of Spring. He also invented the embroidered leather boots of the Polovtsian, in which it is not easy to stretch the instep, but it is convenient to walk in life, which the Parisians who copied the style did not fail to take advantage of. A marvelous Matisse plump undershirt (rather Japanese than Chinese) from The Nightingale. Luxurious Bakstian skirt and padded jacket of the Temple Servant from The Blue God. Golovinsky and Goncharovsky Guards from The Firebird, between which there are 18 years and an aesthetic abyss. Priceless original photographs lurk behind paintings and material objects — forgotten performances, cheerful rehearsals, famous people and colorful characters, among which the unrecognizable hook-nosed Balanchine in Koshchei’s make-up and the decisive Bronislava Nizhinsky, disfigured by Baba Yaga’s make-up, are especially noteworthy — the future rulers of the ballet world, not afraid of neither theatrical risk nor radical change. It was this spirit of freedom, free play, cheerful energy that was lacking for the creators of the exhibition “Diaghilev. Dress rehearsal”. However, its brilliant exhibits played their own performance even without bright direction.

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