What happiness it is to create in the most picturesque ruins on earth, surrounded by young, genius artists.
Red wine intoxicates us, and Palini invites us to a thousand banquets. Diaghilev relates to Rome like Kandavl to his wife – with love and pride. His house is open to guests, he feeds all with tomato purée and pirozhki. See more
Yesterday evening we walked around the circus. There is a red hall, but it is a sad sight. Misia walked on the tightrope. Diaghilev fell asleep, but gave a start and woke up when the elephant went down on its knees.
We’re waiting for Bakst!
I’m not writing because of work. We still have to erect the tuned mechanism. Massine is falling pray to the typical error of youth: he is confusing originality and unnecessary complication. Got to be on one’s guard without a break.
Rome is a provincial city. All capitals save for Paris are provincial. They talk shop right in the middle of the street. Everyone gets together in one single café. See more
The Coliseum is sublime. We saw it at night. It’s impossible to add anything to these ruins, in and of themselves an architectural masterpiece, an enormous repository of centuries past, now surrounded by crowds of onlookers, fauvists and cocaine dealers.
I really like Massine. Our work is progressing apace. You know that my greatest joy is to create, to give form to dreams. Serge is an ogre. He eats and drinks non-stop. This morning he bundled us into the car. All in all, I’m fond of Rome and the hustle and bustle amidst its ruins. No war. Night lights. Trams and cinemas.
In our favorite cafe, “Novedades,” we noticed a small, dark, young dancer, who stood out with his elegant movement and irresistible power. When he finished his dance, Diaghilev asked him to come to our table. He introduced himself as Felix Fernandez Garcia, and as we were talking I felt in him a quivering sensibility of a person who has original talent. See more
Soon we understood that he was not happy with his current life, and even though he found it relatively amusing dancing in a cafe, he did not find it worthwhile. Diaghilev invited Felix to the performances of “Sheherezade” and “Tamara”—they were a true revelation for him, for he has never seen classical ballet before. He expressed his desire to join our company, Diaghilev immediately signed a contract with him, and Felix, who was at the time about twenty-one, became a member of the Russian Ballet troupe.
During the short season in Barcelona, Felix began teaching me the intricate movements of feet and legs in flamenco. And even though he obviously lacked our classical training, he was a naturally gifted dancer and a very patient teacher. When he sensed my strong desire to learn his national dances, he introduced me to his elderly teacher, who in turn, agreed to teach me the zapateadoSpanish folk dance style characterised by a lively rhythm punctuated by the striking of the dancer's shoes. technique.
During this visit to Paris, Stravinsky introduced me to his great friend Maurice Ravel. The meeting took place in his studio, on the outskirts of Paris. The thirty-year-old Ravel, who has already written the music to the ballet “Daphnis and Chloe” was a smart and erudite interlocutor. For a long time we discussed the idea, suggested to me by the painting of Robert Delaunay, of showing a football match by means of choreography. See more
Positions, movements, the rhythm and the virtuosity of sport, according to him, was not hard to turn into forms of contemporary ballet. I was also interested in the image of the ball flying from one group of dancers to another, and agreed, that this subject would be very fitting for creating new, various movements and combinations.
We went to Paris for the new season at the Théâtre du Châtelet. It was our first visit since the beginning of the war. Parisians, generally jolly, it seemed, have changed under the threat of invasion.
I've been working for days on my decorations and costumes and also on two paintings, which were started here. I want to finish them before the dearture. Decorations will be finished right here. Here I have 60 ballerinas. I go to sleep late. I know every girl in Rome. See more
We seriously discussed one of Cocteau’s proposals – a ballet that incorporated elements of a circus and a music hall. We decided to set up one of the stages in front of a circus tent and to cast acrobats, ropewalkers and magicians, as well as to merge choreographic forms with elements of jazz and a cinematic touch. See more
Picasso was delighted by the idea and proposed to make costumes in a cubist style – cubism was booming back then. He quickly produced several rough drafts. The most astonishing ones featured Picasso depicting a french and an american manager as billboards, showcasing the vulgarity of businessmen and of a particular form of showbusiness. For the Americans he came up with a collage – a skyscraper, a mosaic made out of faces, and a prominent inscription which read ‘Parade’; this later became the name of the play.
The circus theme lit our imaginations from the very beginning. For the front curtain he came up with a magnificent picture, which fully conveyed the charm and camaraderie of circus life – it featured ropewalkers and a flying horse with a ballerina standing on its back. He was very concerned about that stage curtain, and while the assistants worked on it with large brushes, Picasso himself carefully painted the smaller details with a tiny toothbrush.
We have been on a few excursions to Pompeii and Herculaneum. Picasso was very struck by the magnificence of the ruins, and each time we turned around we would find him on the top of some ancient column trying to get the best view of the various fragments of Roman sculpture which attracted his eye. Diaghilev was less excited. It was not the first time he had seen these wonders, and the hot sun exhausted him. See more
Cocteau was delighted with it all. He bought a camera and photographed us, leaning on statues and clambering on marble slabs to get the best angle.
Diagilev went to Rome where the "Russian ballet" season is set to begin. He asked me to come and conduct The Firebird and Fireworks, for which he hired the Italian futurist Balla to do a special kind of illustrative set with light effects. I went to Rome. See more
At the apartment Diagilev rented, I found the whole company gathered around a richly laid out table. There were Ansermet, Bakst, Picasso, whom I then met, Cocteau, Balla, Lord Berner, Massine and many others. The season opened at the Teatro Costanzi with a ceremonial performance for the Italian Red Cross. The February Revolution had just occurred in Russia. The tsar abdicated, and the Provisional Government now ran the country. Usually the Russian national anthem was performed before the Russian performance, but now it was really inappropriate to sing "God Save the Tsar.” An alternative was needed. Diagilev got the idea to open the play with a Russian folk song. He chose the famous Song of Volga Boatmen ("Hey, hey ho"). The orchestra was supposed to perform it, but they didn’t have the orchestration. Diagilev begged me to urgently compose it. I had to get right to work, and on the eve of the gala performance I sat at the piano all night long in Berners's apartment, orchestrating the song for the wind orchestra. I dictated the score to Ansermet chord by chord and the interval by interval, and he transcribed it.
The orchestral parts were quickly drawn up so that in the morning rehearsal of the evening program, I was able to hear my orchestration under Ansermet’s conduction. In the evening a solemn performance was staged started by the Italian national anthem and "Hey, hey-ho" instead of the Russian anthem. I directed The Firebird and Fireworks against Balla’s aforementioned illuminated set.
It’s difficult to convey the excitement of working with artists like Picasso and Cocteau. Every time we met in the Piazza Venezia in Rome to exchange ideas, sparks would fly across the room. Any innovation – sound effects, Cubist-style costumes, megaphones – would engender a fresh new chain of ideas. It seemed to me that Cocteau’s indefatigable imagination served to stimulate the complex artistic vision of Picasso.
I have noticed that Picasso exhibits a surprising and rather unusual interest in a picture which hangs above the bed In Diaghilev’s apartments on the Via del Corso. The picture is a stolidly unremarkable and hackneyed piece of Italian 18th-century court art. “Pablo, what can it be in that picture that has piqued your interest so?” asked Diaghilev. “I’m studying it thoroughly”, answered Picasso, “in order to learn better how not to paint”.