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Original costume design for Rimsky-Korsakov's opera Le Coq d'Or by the noted Russian artist Alexandre Benois, in all likelihood for the character Commander Polkan.
Watercolour, pencil, and ink on wove paper. 372 x 260 mm. Signed by the artist with initials and dated 1930 in pencil at lower left. With detailed notes on costumes in Benois's hand in French marked "N.B." at upper left. Slightly worn, browned, and soiled; small hole just to left of pencilled date. Rimsky-Korsakov's last opera, Coq d'Or (The Golden Cockerel) was first performed in Moscow at the Solodovnikov Theatre (Sergey Ivanovich Zimin's private opera company), on September 24/October 7, 1909. It is in a prologue, three acts, and an epilogue by Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov to a libretto by Vladimir Nikolayevich Bel'sky after the eponymous imitation folk tale in verse by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, based in turn on 'The House of the Weathercock' and 'Legend of the Arabian Astrologer' from The Alhambra by Washington Irving. "The Golden Cockerel is the only one of Rimsky- Korsakov's 15 operas to have achieved repertory status beyond Russia. This was Dyagilev's doing. At the prompting of the artist Alexandre Benois, the great impresario staged the opera in Paris and London in 1914 (under the title Le coq d'or, which has stuck to it in the West), with the singers seated in rows at the sides of the stage, accompanying the movements of dancers and mimes, who enacted the plot according to the conventions of ballet d'action (choreography by Fokin)... It also set an important precedent for Stravinsky, whose opera The Nightingale, not to mention such later stage works as Renard, The Wedding and Pulcinella, to a greater or lesser extent embodied the same split between singing and movement. It was an important stage in the modernist dismantling of the Gesamtkunstwerk." Richard Taruskin in Grove Music Online. Benois is considered a seminal influence on moddern ballet set and costume design. "In 1901, [he] was appointed scenic director of the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, the performance space for the Imperial Russian Ballet. He moved to Paris in 1905 and thereafter devoted most of his time to stage design and decor. During these years, his work with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes was groundbreaking. His sets and costumes for the productions of Les Sylphides (1909), Giselle (1910), and Petrushka (1911), are counted among his greatest triumphs. Although Benois worked primarily with the Ballets Russes, he also collaborated with the Moscow Art Theatre and other notable theatres of Europe." Wikipedia.
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