Robert Owen Lehman’s extraordinary collection of music manuscripts has been an inspiration to scholars and visitors since it was placed on deposit at the Morgan Library & Museum. Among its many splendid works are deep holdings of early-twentieth-century ballet, including Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird (1910), Petrouchka (1911), and Les Noces (1923); Claude Debussy’s L’après-midi d’un Faune (1912); and Maurice Ravel’s Bolero (1928) and La Valse (1920).
The exhibition opens with the dramatic arrival of Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes troupe in Paris in 1909 and goes on to trace its impact across the arts, highlighting the rise of women in leading creative roles. They include Bronislava Nijinska, who in 1921 became the Ballets Russes’ only female choreographer and whose groundbreaking choreography defined Les Noces, Bolero, and other ballets of the era; and Ida Rubinstein, whose riveting stage presence helped establish the Ballets Russes in its first seasons and who came to rival Diaghilev as a patron of music, commissioning Bolero in 1928.
At the core of the exhibition is the creative process that brought these ballets to life. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue address the sketches, drafts, and working copies of the composers, choreographers, and designers, capturing the ways in which they imagined, conceived, and collaborated to kindle works of astonishing originality and ongoing influence.
The exhibition is organized by Robinson McClellan, Assistant Curator of Music Manuscripts and Printed Music.
Crafting the Ballets Russes: Music, Dance, Design, and the Robert Owen Lehman Collection is supported by Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky and the Franklin Jasper Walls Lecture Fund, with assistance from Hubert and Mireille Goldschmidt.