Diaghilev: A Life, By Sjeng Scheijen
Sunday 05 September 2010
It is too fitting that a larger-than-life character such as the Russian impresario Sergey Diaghilev should have been born with so large a head that it killed his mother when she gave birth to him. Too fitting, because it is not true: as Sjeng Scheijen reveals in this myth-busting biography, Diaghilev's mother died of puerperal fever three months after her son's birth. Had she lived, she might not have recognised the sensitive boy who grew up to found the Ballets Russes and hobnob with Picasso, Coco Chanel, Stravinsky and Prokofiev.
Diaghilev lived in a public way and courted public figures even in his youth, when he and a friend made their way, uninvited, to Tolstoy's home and sat talking with the great man for hours. So trying to get a sense of the private life of a man who loved the glitter and glamour of fame is no easy task, and sometimes Scheijen's biography is so swamped by the famous connections that the inner life all but disappears. We have glimpses, only, in his tantrums over his one-time lover, the dancer Nijinsky, and in reports from famous friends who found him vulnerable as well as aloof.
His constant search for money to put on extravagant shows, after forays into publishing and art criticism brought him fame but no fortune, reveals a man who lived constantly on the edge, but who behaved as though he was a millionaire.
Yet he achieved what so few do: a marriage of truly innovative, artistic experiments by his dance company with a popular appeal. He wasn't always right, but when he was, the world knew about it.
The best TV shows and films coming to the servicetv
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 2 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 3 Dakota Johnson's 'It's only Isis' Saturday Night Live sketch sparks controversy
- 4 Robert Mugabe eats a zoo for 'obscene' 91st birthday party
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Broadchurch series 3: David Tennant and Olivia Colman to return for third season, ITV confirms
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
EastEnders may bring transgender character to Albert Square to challenge 'traditional' viewers
Spectre: Director Sam Mendes teases clips from upcoming James Bond movie
Indian Summers recommissioned: Channel 4 confirm a second series of British Empire drama
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how Corporation is funded
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'