.Miró - Ballets Russes


Drawings by Miró for the costumes of the ballet Romeo and Juliet, presented in 1926 by the famous Ballets Russes company.

Music by Constant Lambert, choreography by Bronislava Nijinska (sister of Nijinsky), stage curtain by Max Ernst, sets by Max Ernst and Joan Miró, costumes by Joan Miró.
Serge Diaghilev (1872-1929) was the founder of the Ballets Russes company, for which he organized annual tours of Europe from 1909 until his death in 1929. He carefully chose the musical works he wanted to show to the Western public.
He began with a retrospective exhibition of Russian art at the Grand Palais in 1906, and then continued in 1907 at the Palais Garnier with five great Russian historical concerts. In 1908, he presented the opera Boris Godounov by Mussorgsky, before turning, the following year, to the representation of ballets on Russian music.
It was in 1909 at the Châtelet theater that the troupe of artists he had formed under the name of Ballets Russes performed for the first time, with immense success, before touring Europe and the Americas each year until 1929.

Serge Lifar as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, 1926. Costume design by Joan Miró
The Ballets Russes is considered today to be the most influential company of the 20th century. Diaghilev was revolutionary and encouraged collaboration between choreographers, composers, artists, designers and dancers. Over the years, Diaghilev partnered with many artistic virtuosos, including Igor Stravinsky, George Balanchine, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Coco Chanel.

In 1926, the surrealists Joan Miró and Max Ernst designed the sets and costumes for the Ballets Russes' new production of Romeo and Juliet to be presented in Monte Carlo. Diaghilev's initial plan for this production of Romeo and Juliet was to tell William Shakespeare's story faithfully, for which he hired the young English composer Constant Lambert and Christopher Wood for the costumes and sets.
Diaghilev quickly changed his mind and decided to adapt the plot to follow the story of a ballet company rehearsing Romeo and Juliet. To better suit his new production ideas, Diaghilev hired Miró and Ernst instead of Wood.

Joan Miró, "To Serge Lifar, Arrow piercing smoke", 1926.

Here is another trace of the friendships that linked the creators: painters, dancers and choreographers, architects, writers... In 1923, Lifar, after having fled Russia, began working with the Ballets Russes and quickly became the company's first dancer.