Poor chap – his story here on my blog keeps getting shorter – too much going … while Diaghilev (1872 - 1929), the impresario, deserves serious treatment – bearing in mind the influence he had on Russian and ultimately Western culture …
His mother died in childbirth, but he was lucky and had a very rewarding relationship with his step-mother … he confided in her and wrote to her throughout her life … in the biography by Sjeng Scheijen we are privy to a great many snippets of these eye-opening communications.
His early life was surrounded by a large family and friends in Perm, near the Ural mountains … where they'd created a local cultural centre – and where he sang, composed and read voraciously. Also he was always surrounded by dictionaries and maps – constantly curious and wanting more knowledge.
Perm was near Yekaterinburg, where the family of Tsar Nicholas was executed in 1918.
|Siberian route across Russia into China
The town was founded in 1723 by Peter the Great (1672 - 1725), and is named after his wife. The city has two important connections … it served as the mining capital of the Russian Empire (1721 - 1917), as well as a strategic connection between Europe and Asia.
In 1781, Catherine the Great (1729 - 1796), continued the important Siberian Route through Perm. (The route ran from Moscow, via Mongolia, into China, west of Beijing).
|Diaghilev by Rostislav Doboujinsky
(1903 - 2000) - showing his shock
of white hair
So this mercurial man with his overflowing confidence, many mood swings, was ready for a life of distinction … taking creativity to new horizons at the start of the 20th century … particularly his inherent ability to perceive the genius of others.
It was during his University years in St Petersburg that he was able to look around to find his true interests in life - particularly Russian and Western art, as well as his literary knowledge … he came to be respected as one of the most learned men in the group.
He promoted talented youngsters … one of these was the Ballets Russes' star dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky (1889 – 1950) … who became one of his lovers.
Sadly Nijinsky was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a very young age and for nearly 30 years was in and out of psychiatric hospitals and asylums …
Diaghilev, who lived the high life, lived from pay-check to pay-check, but always ensuring the needs of his dancers and company were met. In his latter years his passion turned to collecting rare books - of which there were many significant ones.
He had developed diabetes … refusing to change his life-style … however one thing he feared was dying in water, and as far as possible avoided travelling by boat.
He loved Venice managing to reach there just before his death in 1929. At the end he was broke, broke … but his debts were settled by friends … including Coco Chanel … however he had reached his beloved Venice.
His tomb is on the nearby island of San Michele – the island has served as the principal cemetery of Venice since 1807.
Diaghilev continues to influence and be remembered both here in the west and in Russia – one hopes that will continue.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends ...
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