Crafting the Ballets Russes: The Robert Owen Lehman Collection

June 28 through September 22, 2024

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, Associate Curator of Music Manuscripts and Printed Music.

Crafting the Ballets Russes: The Robert Owen Lehman Collection is supported by the William Randolph Hearst Fund for Scholarly Research and Exhibitions, the Robert Lehman Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Clement C. Moore II, the Lucy Ricciardi Family Exhibition Fund, Elizabeth and Jean-Marie Eveillard, Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky, and the Franklin Jasper Walls Lecture Fund. Assistance is provided by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation and Hubert and Mireille Goldschmidt.

(L) Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971), Firebird, autograph manuscript, piano, extensive revisions, [1910]. The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, Robert Owen Lehman Collection, on deposit. Used by kind permission of European American Music Distributors Company, sole U.S. and Canadian agent for Schott Music GmbH & Co. KG, Mainz, Germany, publisher and copyright owner.

(R) Léon Bakst (1866–1924), “Firebird and the Prince (Tsarevitch),” poster design for Firebird, 1915. Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Howard D. Rothschild Collection.

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