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Collection Summary

Collector: National Library of Australia
Title: Records of the Ballets Russes : their Australasian tours, 1936-1940 : theatre programmes and ephemera held at the National Library of Australia
Date Range: 1936-1940
Collection PI:nla.aus-vn143713
Extent: 9 boxes, 2 bound volumes

 

Introduction

Multiple bills

Each tour of the Ballets Russes followed a familiar pattern of performing a large number of shorter ballets. None of the seasons included a program featuring just one full length ballet. Instead, there was an average of three ballets per program, sometimes up to five. In addition, programs changed frequently. The longest run of one program was for eight nights plus matinees, the shortest was for just one performance.

All these factors are common to any dance company, particularly a touring one. However with the Ballets Russes, the large number of ballets performed over a long period of time make for a particularly complex picture.

The publishing of programs

Beginning in the 1920s, the J. C. Williamson organisation [JCW] published a Magazine programme in cities with theatres operated by them, namely Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. These multi-purpose publications covered current and forthcoming attractions in JCW theatres in each of these cities for various periods.

The frequency of the Magazine programmes is difficult to accurately establish. Some assistance in dating is given on cast list pages announcing "Season commencing June 23 ... ". In some cities such as Melbourne and Sydney where JCW operated up to three theatres the issuing of a Magazine programme appears to have been relatively frequent (either weekly or fortnightly) and the publications themselves were larger, often over 50 pages.

In general, the covers of the Magazine programmes were the same for long periods of time and were usually used in all cities. However, for major attractions such as the Ballets Russes tours, some special covers were used at various times. These special covers are indicated in the chronological listings for each Ballets Russes tour.

The Magazine programmes included a large amount of advertising and publicity material for current and forthcoming attractions with biographies, portraits, scenes from attractions and reports from overseas featuring prominently. Much of this information was repeated or rearranged from issue to issue. Advance publicity increased in volume as the attraction drew nearer.

In relation to the Ballets Russes tours, Magazine programmes are particularly useful for the publicity surrounding the tours, articles by Arnold Haskell, biographies, and portraits of dancers, music staff and management. Product advertising using leading dancers is also of interest.

The combined publicity machines of de Basil and J. C. Williamson produced glossy Souvenir programmes for some of the seasons. Largely photographic in nature, they featured principal dancers of the company, scenes from some of the ballets performed, and leading personalities associated with the tour. These should not be confused with some issues of the routine Magazine programmes which have "Souvenir Programme" overprinted on the cover, but which contain nothing of a special nature.

Cast lists for musicals, variety shows, dramas and comedies were usually included in the text of the Magazine programme. However, for opera and ballet they were NOT included. Instead, separate four page folded Cast lists were published covering a season of a multiple bill, whether it was for one, three, five or eight nights duration.

It is important to note that two types of Cast lists occur indicating either repertoire or cast changes. These can appear to be duplicates but a careful internal examination of the text reveals changes. This is in spite of the same date span being stated, for example "Week commencing Saturday November 7, 1936". Evidence suggests that these weekly Cast lists were in some instances issued daily. The second smaller type are those where the specific performance date has been printed at the top of the Cast list, for example, "Wednesday evening, December 9". These subtle changes may reflect cast or repertoire changes from one night to the next, a factor of which the researcher needs to be aware. Differences in dating which occur on Cast lists have been noted in the list which follows.

The collecting and preserving of these loose Cast lists are particularly important as they represent the best available evidence of the repertoire actually performed and who performed it.

The Library has acquired Cast lists from many sources over the years. Some have come to the Library loosely inserted into an issue of a Magazine programme and these have been retained in situ as it is assumed that is the manner in which they were issued. Others have been acquired as individual items which might have been handed out to patrons at the performance in that form. On the other hand they might have become separated from a Magazine programme. Cast lists held as individual items form the bulk of the documentation of the Ballets Russes tours in the PROMPT Collection.

Some examples of Advertising ephemera such as brochures, booking forms, invitations, etc have survived and are noted under the relevant season.

Advertisements, reports, reviews and listings in newspapers can also be used as source material for documenting the Ballets Russes tours. However these sources have NOT been included in this Finding Aid.

 

Access

The collection is available for reference.

 

Sources of the National Library's holdings

Over the years, the Library has acquired published material on the Ballets Russes tours from three sources - J. C. Williamson, Geoffrey Ingram, and through routine acquisitions of retrospective Australiana whether by gift or purchase.

When the firm of J. C. Williamson's closed in 1973, the Library acquired a significant collection of material from the Sydney office of the company (See the description in Potter, Michelle. The Russian Ballet in Australia 1936-1940 : sources for modernism in Australian art [manuscript]. Thesis (B.A.) - Australian National University, 1987 . nla.cat-vn2229366 .). Included in the large collection was a bound set of Magazine programmes and Cast lists which provide a near complete record of JCW theatres in Sydney from the 1920s to the late 1960s. It is thought that they were probably working copies for JCW office staff, as they are well used, indexed and occasionally annotated.

In some cases these bound volumes constitute the most complete holdings of Cast lists for certain portions of the three Ballets Russes tours. These are referred to in the listing as "JCW/BS Vol ...".

Individual Cast lists covering other portions of the tours were acquired from JCW and form part of the PROMPT holdings.These are referred to in the Finding Aid as separates.

Geoffrey Ingram was a former dancer with the Borovansky Ballet and founding administrator of the Australian Ballet, as well as being a collector of historical Australian dance material. The Library acquired a significant portion of his collection including substantial holdings of Magazine programmes and Cast lists for the Ballets Russes, particularly the Melbourne seasons. These have been integrated into the PROMPT collection.

The Library is actively filling in gaps in its Australiana collections. As such it acquires retrospective material, including published material relating to the Ballets Russes tours. These are integrated into the PROMPT collection.

With the compilation of this holdings list, the Library's holding of Ballets Russes programs and ephemera have been brought together for the first time to form a near complete record of these historic tours.

NB. JCW consistently used "programme" to refer to their Magazine programme. This meaning has been retained in this Finding Aid. To avoid confusion, the word "program" is used to refer to a ballet season.

 

Repertoire

Between 1936 and 1940 the three touring Ballets Russes companies performed 44 separate ballets in Australia most of which were Australian premieres. Five ballets received their world premieres during the three tours. Twelve of the ballets became standard favourites and were repeated for each visit.

Below is a complete list of ballets in the repertoire of the Ballets Russes touring companies in Australia.

  • "Performed tour 1" refers to the 1936/37 tour
  • "Performed tour 2" refers to the 1938/39 tour
  • "Performed tour 3" refers to the 1939/40 tour
  • L'amour sorcier
    • Choreography - Leon Woizikovsky
    • Music - Manuel de Falla
    • Scenery and costumes - Nathalie Gontcharova
    • Performed tour 1
    • L'apres midi d'un faune (Afternoon of a faun)
    • Choreographic poem
    • Choreography - After Waslaw Nijinsky
    • Music - Claude Debussy from his "Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune"
    • Scenery - Prince A. Schervachidze
    • Costumes - Leon Bakst
    • Performed tours 1, 3
    Aurora's wedding SEE Le mariage d'Aurore
    • Le beau Danube (The beautiful Danube)
    • Book and choreography - Leonide Massine
    • Music - Johann Strauss arr. Roger Desormiere
    • Costumes - Count Etienne de Beaumont
    • Scenery - Vladimir Polunin after Constantin Guys
    • Performed tour 1
    • Bolero
    • Choreography - Anton Dolin
    • Music - Maurice Ravel
    • Performed tour 2
    • La boutique fantasque
    • Choreography - Leonide Massine
    • Music - Gioacchine Rossini arr. Ottorino Respighi
    • Decor and costumes - Andre Derain
    • Performed tour 1
    • Carnaval
    • Ballet in once act
    • Choreography - Michel Fokine
    • Music - Robert Schumann orchestrated by Rimsky-Korsakoff, Glazounoff, Liadoff, Tcherepnine
    • Scenery and costumes - Leon Bakst
    • Performed tours 1-3
    • Cendrillon (Cinderella)
    • Ballet in three parts after Perrault's fairy tale
    • Choreography - Michel Fokine
    • Music - Frederic d'Erlanger
    • Scenery and costumes - Nathalie Gontcharova
    • Scenery executed by - Prince A. Schervachidze
    • Costumes executed by - B. Karinska
    • Performed tours 2-3
    • Les cent baisers (The hundred kisses)
    • Libretto - Boris Kochno after the fairy tale by Hans Andersen
    • Choreography - Bronislava Nijinska
    • Music - Frederic d'Erlanger
    • Scenery and costumes - Jean Hugo
    • Scenery executed - by Prince A. Schervachidze
    • Performed tours 1-3
    • Choreartium (Choreographic symphony)
    • Choreography - Leonide Massine
    • Music - J. Brahms from his 4th Symphony
    • Scenery and costumes - by Constantin Terechkovitch and EugeneLourie
    • Curtain - by Georges Annenkoff
    • Scenery executed by Elisabeth Polunin
    • Performed tours 2-3
    • Cimarosiana
    • Ballet divertissement
    • Choreography - Leonide Massine
    • Music - Domenico Cimarosa
    • Scenery and costumes - Jose-Marie Sert
    • Performed tour 3
    • La concurrence (The competition)
    • Ballet - by Andre Derain
    • Choreography - Georges Balanchine
    • Music - Georges Auric
    • Curtain, scenery and costumes - Andre Derain
    • Costumes executed by B. Karinska
    • Scenery executed by Prince A. Schervachidze
    • Performed tour 2
    • Contes russes (Children's tales)
    • Choreography - Leonide Massine
    • Music - Anatol Liadoff
    • Scenery and costumes - Michel Larionoff
    • Performed tour 1
    • Coppelia (no stars, not an Australian premiere)
    • Ballet in two acts
    • Book - Nuitter and St. Leon after the story from 'The Tales of Hoffman'
    • Music - Leo Delibes
    • Choreography - after Marius Petipa
    • Arranged by - Anatole Oboukhoff
    • Scenery executed by Olga Larose
    • Performed tour 3
    • Le coq d'or (The golden cockerel)
    • Ballet in three scenes based on the fairy tale by Puchkine and opera libretto by Bielsky
    • Choreography - Michel Fokine
    • Music - from the opera by Rimsky-Korsakoff adapted by N. Tcherepnine
    • Curtain, scenery and costumes - Nathalie Gontcharova
    • Scenery - executed by Prince A. Schervachidze
    • Costumes - executed by B. Karinska
    • Performed tours 2-3
    • Cotillon (The dance)
    • Ballet - Boris Kochno
    • Choreography - Georges Balanchine
    • Music - Emmanuel Chabrier arr. E. Chabrier, F. Mottl, Vittorio Rieti
    • Scenery and costumes - Christian Berard
    • Scenery executed by Prince A. Schervachidze
    • Costumes executed by B. Karinska
    • Performed tours 1-2
    • Danses slaves et tziganes (Gypsy dances)
    • From the Russian opera Roussalka
    • Choreography by Bronislava Nijinska
    • Music - A. Dargomijsky
    • Scenery - by A. Golovine
    • Costumes by C Korovine executed by Helene Pons, New York
    • Performed tour 2
    • Le Danube bleu (The blue Danube)
    • Ballet to music by Johann Strauss
    • Scenes and dances arranged by Serge Lifar
    • Scenery - Vladimir Polunin after Constantin Guys
    • Costumes - Count Etienne de Beaumont
    • Performed tour 3
    • Les dieux mendiants (The gods go a-begging)
    • Pastoral by Sobeka
    • Choreography - David Lichine
    • Music - G.F. Handel arranged by Sir Thomas Beecham
    • Scenery - by Leon Bakst
    • Costumes - by Juan Gris
    • Performed tours 2-3
    • Les femmes de bonne humeur (The good humoured ladies)
    • Ballet in one act after a comedy by Carlo Goldoni
    • Choreography - Leonide Massine
    • Music - Domenico Scarlatti . Orchestrated and arranged by Vincenzo Tommasini
    • Scenery and costumes - by Leon Bakst
    • Performed tours 2-3
    • Le fils prodigue (The prodigal son)
    • Scenes in three tableaux by Boris Kochno
    • Choreography - by David Lichine
    • Music - by Serge Prokofieff
    • Scenery and costumes - Georges Rouault
    • Scenery executed by - Prince A. Schervachidze
    • Costumes executed - by Mme V. Soudeikine
    • Performed tour 2
    • Francesca da Rimini
    • Choreographic drama in two scenes by David Lichine and Henry Clifford partly drawn from Dante
    • Music - P Tchaikovsky
    • Scenery and costumes - Oliver Messel
    • Scenery executed by Prince. A. Schervachidze
    • Costumes executed by B. Karinska
    • Performed tour 3
    • Graduation ball
    • Ballet in one act by David Lichine
    • Choreography - David Lichine
    • Music - Johann Strauss. Compiled, arranged and orchestrated by Antal Dorati
    • Scenery, costumes - Alexandre Benois
    • Scenery executed by Nadejda Benois
    • Ladies costumes executed by Antoinette, Sydney
    • Male costumes executed by A. H. Leiser, Sydney
    • Performed tour 3
    • Icare
    • Choreographic legend in one act by Serge Lifar
    • Choreauthor - Serge Lifar
    • Rhythms by Lifar orchestrated by Antal Dorati
    • Scenery and costumes - Sidney Nolan
    • Performed tour 3
    • Jeux d'enfants (Children's games)
    • Ballet - Boris Kochno
    • Choreography - Leonide Massine
    • Music - Georges Bizet
    • Curtain, scenery, costumes and designs - Joan Miro
    • Curtain - painted by Joan Miro
    • Scenery - painted by Prince A. Schervachidze
    • Costumes - executed by Madame B. Karinska
    • Performed tour 2
    • Le lac des cygnes (Swan lake)
    • Choreographic poem in one act
    • Choreography - after Marius Petipa
    • Music - P.Tchaikovsky
    • Scenery and costumes by C.Korovine
    • Scenery executed by Prince A. Schervachidze (tours 1-2), O.
    • Allegri (tour 3)
    • Performed tours 1-3
    • Lutte eternelle (Eternal struggle)
    • Ballet in one act by Igor Schwezoff
    • Choreography - Igor Schwezoff
    • Music - Robert Schumann from Etudes symphonqiues orchestrated by Antal Dorati
    • Scenery and costumes - Kathleen and Florence Martin
    • Scenery executed by G. Upward
    • Costumes executed by Olga Larose
    • Performed tour 3
    • L'oiseau de feu (The firebird)
    • Ballet in two scenes by Michel Fokine from Russian folk tales
    • Choreography - Michel Fokine
    • Music - Igor Stravinsky
    • Scenery and costumes - Leon Bakst (tour 1) and Nathalie Gontcharova (tour 3)
    • Performed tours 1, 3
    • Paganini
    • Fantastic ballet in three scenes by S. Rachmaninoff and M. Fokine
    • Choreography - Michel Fokine
    • Music - Serge Rachmaninoff from his Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini
    • Scenery and costumes - Serge Soudeikine
    • Scenery executed - Oreste Allegri
    • Performed tour 3
    • Papillons (The butterflies)
    • Ballet in one act
    • Choreography - Michel Fokine
    • Music - Robert Schumann arranged by N. Tcherepnine
    • Scenery designed and executed by M. Doboujinsky
    • Costumes - Leon Bakst
    • Performed tours 2-3
    • Pavane (Pavane of the Infantas)
    • Choreography - Serge Lifar
    • Music - Gabriel Faure
    • Costumes - Jose-Maria Sert
    • Scenery executed by Prince A. Schervachidze
    • Performed tour 3
    • Pavillon
    • Ballet - Boris Kochno
    • Music - A. Borodine. Arranged and orchestrated by Antal Dorati
    • Choreography - David Lichine
    • Scenery - Nicolas Benois
    • Costumes- Cecil Beaton
    • Costumes executed by B. Karinska
    • Performed tour 3
    • Petrouchka
    • A burlesque in four acts
    • Choreography - Michel Fokine
    • Book - by Alexandre Benois and Igor Stravinsky
    • Music - I. Stravinsky
    • Curtain, scenery and costumes - by Alexandre Benois
    • Performed tours 1-3
    • Port Said
    • Choreography - Leon Woizikowsky
    • Music - Konstantinoff
    • Scenery and costumes - Michel Larionoff
    • Performed tour 1
    • Les presages (Destiny)
    • Choreographic symphony
    • Book and choreography - Leonide Massine
    • Music - P. Tchaikovsky from his Fifth Symphony
    • Scenery and costumes - Andre Masson
    • Scenery executed by Prince A. Schervachidze
    • Performed tours 1-3
    • Prince Igor
    • Polovtsien dances from the opera Prince Igor
    • Choreography - Michel Fokine
    • Music - Alexander Borodine
    • Scenery and costumes - Nicholas Roerich
    • Performed tours 1-3
    • Protee
    • Choreographic tableau by David Lichine and Henry Clifford
    • Choreography - David Lichine
    • Music - Claude Debussy from his Danses sacree et profane
    • Scenery and costumes - Giorgio de Chirico
    • Scenery executed by Prince A. Schervachidze
    • Costumes executed by B. Karinska
    • Performed tours 2-3
    • Scheherazade
    • Choreographic drama in one act by Michel Fokine and Leon Bakst
    • Choreography - Michel Fokine
    • Music - N. Rimsky-Korsakoff
    • Scenery and costumes - Leon Bakst
    • Performed tours 1-3
    • Scuola di ballo (The school of dance)
    • A comedy by Carol Goldoni arranged and adapted by Leonide Massine
    • Choreography - by Leonide Massine
    • Music - L. Boccherini. Orchestrated by J.Francaix
    • Scenery and costumes - by Count Etienne de Beaumont
    • Scenery executed by Prince A. Schervachidze
    • Performed tours 1-3
    • Soleil de nuit (The midnight sun)
    • Russian scenes and dances from the opera Snegoutotchka
    • Choreography - Leonide Massine
    • Music - N. Rimsky-Korsakoff
    • Scenery and costumes - Michel Larionoff
    • Performed tours 1-2
    • Le spectre de la rose (The spirit of the rose)
    • Romantic poem in one act by J.J. Vaudoyer after the poem by Theophile Gautier
    • Choreography - Michel Fokine (reconstructed for tour 1 by Leon Woizikovsky)
    • Music - C.M. Weber
    • Scenery and costumes - Leon Bakst
    • Performed tours 1-3
    • Swan lake SEE Le lac des cygnes
    • Les sylphides
    • A romantic reverie in one act by Michel Fokine
    • Choreography - Michel Fokine
    • Music - F. Chopin. Orchestrated by Vittorio Rieti
    • Scenery - Prince A. Schervachidze after Corot
    • Costumes executed by - O. Larose
    • Performed tours 1-3
    • Symphonie fantastique
    • An episode in the life of an artist
    • Choreography - Leonid Massine
    • Music and Book - H. Berlioz
    • Scenery and costumes - by Christian Berard
    • Scenery - executed by Prince A. Schervachidze
    • Performed tours 2-3
    • Thamar
    • Choreographic drama in one act
    • Choreography - Michel Fokine
    • Music - M. Balakireff
    • Scenery and costumes - Leon Bakst
    • Performed tours 1, 3
    • Union Pacific
    • An American ballet in one act and four scenes
    • Libretto - Archibald MacLeish
    • Choreography - Leonide Massine
    • Music - Nicolas Nabokoff based on folk songs of the period 1860
    • Scenery - Albert Johnson, executed by Valentine Kashuba
    • Costumes - Irene Sharaff
    • Performed tour 2

Bibliography

Another beginning. Film documentary. Sydney : Australian Broadcasting Commission, [1970s] 54 mins.

The Ballets Russes in Australia : an avalanche of dancing . Video documentary. Canberra : National Film and Sound Archive and National Library of Australia, 1999. 45 mins

Cargher, John. Opera and ballet in Australia. Stanmore, NSW : Cassell Australia, 1977. nla.cat-vn923505

Finch, Tamara. 'My dancing years, part three.', Dance Chronicle, 27 (No. 3, 2004), pp. 373-408.

Leong, Roger [ed]. From Russia with love : costumes for the Ballets Russes 1909- 1933.Canberra : National Gallery of Australia, 1999. nla.cat-vn2231911

Garcia-Marquez, Vicente. The Ballets Russes : Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, 1932-1952. New York : A. Knopf, 1990. nla.cat-vn1732298

Haskell, Arnold L.. Dancing round the world : memoirs of an attempted escape from ballet [drawings by Daryl Lindsay]. London : V. Gollancz, 1937. nla.cat-vn2508916

Haskell, Arnold L.. Balletomane at large: an autobiography. London : Heinemann, 1972. nla.cat-vn397282

Healy, Robyn and Michael Lloyd [eds]. From studio to stage : costumes and designs from the Russian Ballet in the Australian National Gallery. Canberra : Australian National Gallery, 1990. nla.cat-vn2888300

Parsons, Philip [ed]. Companion to theatre in Australia. Stanmore, NSW : Currency Press, 1995. nla.cat-vn702300

Pask, Edward H. Enter the colonies dancing : a history of dance in Australia, 1835-1940. Melbourne : Oxford University Press, 1979. nla.cat-vn2810140

Potter, Michelle. A Full house :the Esso guide to the performing arts collections of the National Library of Australia. Canberra, National Library of Australia, 1991. nla.cat-vn2965573

Potter, Michelle. 'Mutual fascination. The Ballets Russes tours to Australia, 1936-1940', Brolga, 11 (1999), pp. 7-15. nla.cat-vn2105194

Potter, Michelle. 'A Strong Personality and a Gift for Leadership: Hélène Kirsova in Australia', Dance Research, 13 (No. 2, Autumn 1995), pp. 62-76. nla.cat-vn3549323

Potter, Michelle. 'De Basil in Australia : Publicity and Patronage', Dance Research, 11 (No. 2, Autumn 1993), pp. 16-26. nla.cat-vn3549323

Potter, Michelle. The Russian Ballet in Australia 1936-1940 : sources for modernism in Australian art [manuscript]. Thesis (B.A.) - Australian National University, 1987 . nla.cat-vn2229366

Tait, Viola. A family of brothers : the Taits and J.C. Williamson : a theatre history. Melbourne : Heinemann, 1971. nla.cat-vn1009865

Walker, Kathrine Sorley. De Basil's Ballets Russes. London : Hutchinson, 1982. nla.cat-vn267137

West, John. Theatre in Australia. Stanmore, NSW : Cassell Australia, 1978. nla.cat-vn2644026

Internet resources

The National Library's dance portal, Australia Dancing, provides access to and information about the Library's dance collections across a range of formats held by the Library including Manuscripts, Pictures, Oral Histories and Ephemera. It also gives information about dance material in other selected Australian locations, in particular film and video material held at the National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra. In addition, the service provides a range of related dance links. www.australiadancing.org

The Australia Dancing subject record for the Ballets Russes Australian tours provides resource descriptions and in many cases online access to Ballets Russes materials held by the Library and the National Film and Sound Archive. http://www.australiadancing.org/subjects/9.html

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