Diaghilev: A Life


Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
7.2 X 10.0 X 1.9 inches | 2.55 pounds

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About the Author

Sjeng Scheijen is a Senior Research Fellow and Veni-laureate at Leiden University in The Netherlands. He is a historian of Russian art, an exhibition curator, and a former cultural attaché at the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Moscow.


"Sjeng Scheijen's biography of Ballets Russes impresario Serge Diaghilev (1872-1929) has been universally welcomed as the best to date...[This] biography of Diaghilev is indispensable and a well-written 'page turner' besides...Scheijen's command of the subject resounds on every page. Ninety years after his death we have the first scholarly biography of Serge Diaghilev in English and it is a winner." --Slavic Review

"The parade of great dancers, composers, and artists through Diahilev's life give this book the sweep of a Russian novel with a fascinating, brilliant, and complex protagonist who, according to the author, lived a very public life, but kept his most intimate feelings hidden." --Publishers Weekly

"A vivid portrait of this morbid, nomadic, charming-yet-secretive visionary." --Classic FM Magazine

"Drawing on a great deal of new research, and relying wherever possible on contemporary journals and letters, Scheijen puts Diaghilev into a different frame to any of his previous biographers.... Scheijen masterfully recounts the phenomenal way in which Diaghilev contrived, under virtually impossible circumstances, to nurture a sequence of works, from Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Debussy, Ravel, Falla, Milhaud, designed by Bakst, Picasso, Derain, Matisse, Miró, danced by Nijinsky, Karsavina, Massine, Lifar, choreographed by Fokine, Nijinsky, Nijinska, Massine, each more audacious than the last, many of them still in the repertoire."--Simon Callow, The Guardian

"An expansive, immensely readable text... A must for anyone intrigued by the Ballets Russes and the ingenious impresario indelibly linked with its achievements." --Times Higher Education

"Sergei Diaghilev was a transformative force in the history of 20th century culture thanks to his promotion of Russian art, Russian opera and, of course, the Ballets Russes. After exhaustive research in Russian, European and American archives, Sjeng Scheijen presents us with a multi-facetted and synthetic portrait of Diaghilev, adducing much new biographical and critical material. With important sections on Diaghilev's family, education, esthetic criteria and psychological makeup, Sergei Diaghilev: A Life is a luminous, engaging and refreshing study of Diaghilev's national commitment, international mission and deep influence on the evolution of the visual and performing arts."--Professor. John Bowlt, University of Southern California

'Sjeng Scheijen's new book about Diaghilev is absolutely wonderful. It is filled with the most fascinating information and is a completely intriguing read.... [An] exceptional book'--Dame Monica Mason, DBE, Director of the Royal Ballet

"No biography is definitive - yet I cannot imagine any book that will supersede this account of how Diaghilev ballets came into being. It is an astonishing achievement."--Michael Holroyd

"Previous biographies... have said little or nothing of the family Diaghilev left behind in Russia. Mr. Scheijen, a Dutch expert in Russian art, demonstrates, however, that Diaghilev made repeated efforts to contact them... Mr. Scheijen draws happily from a wide range of sources that have become available in recent years in Russia and the West... an important addition to the large shelf of Diaghilev literature." --Alistair Macauley, The New York Times

"...new document enable Scheijen to sweep out many cob-webbed corners in the Diaghilev story... The leading edge of Scheijen's revisionism, however, is not his fact-correcting but his reinterpretations... An admirable book. Apart from its revisionism, its most striking quality is its avoidance of clutter, and hence its rhetorical force... Above all, [Scheijen[ has tried to provide a deep and unified account of Diaghilev's personality. It's not a soul laid bare - Diaghilev was secretive - but something closer than we've seen before."
Joan Acocella, The New Yorker

"Diaghilev's Ballets Russes attracted devotees who behaved as if under the spell of an almost cult-like intoxication. The rapture of art at its most transformative seemed to infect everyone connected to the impresario. The major achievement of Diaghilev: A Life is probably its detailed portrait of Diaghilev's private life, but at the same time Mr. Scheijen helps us to feel something of that rapture." -Joel Lobenthal, The Wall Street Journal

"[A] meaty and rigorously researched new biography...Diaghilev: A Life is especially excellent on its subject's formative years... Scheijen dexterously plays his sources against one another to examine the erotic and professional dynamics between Diaghilev and his stars." -Jennifer B. McDonald, The New York Times Book Review

"Diaghilev was larger than life, and this biography is an absorbing and dramatic account of an extraordinary individual and his time." -Library Journal

"In Scheijen's hands, this is quite a read, quite a life, and quite a book." -Playbill.com

"Scheijen provides a comprehensive, well-balanced chronicle of the professional and personal life of the famous, and infamous, Russian impressario Serge Diaghilev... A substantial addition to the literature on Diaghilev and his Ballet Russes, the book benefits from Scheijen's access to and selective use of materials from previously inaccessible Russian archives." -Choice

"An admirable biographical study, and a fascinating overview of the Russian art world and its European connections in the early twentieth century." --Times Literary Supplement

"The epic life of the impresario of the Ballets Russes is captured in Sjeng Scheijen's Diaghilev, which... proves that 'design by committee' is not necessarily doomed." --Harper's Magazine