Sergei Diaghilev

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Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev (Russian: Серге́й Па́влович Дя́гилев / Sergei Pavlovich Dyagilev pronounced [sʲɪˈrɡʲej ˈpavlovʲɪtɕ ˈdʲæɡʲɪlʲɪf]) (31 March [O.S. 19 March] 1872 – 19 August 1929), usually referred to outside of Russia as Serge, was a Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes, from which many famous dancers and choreographers would later arise.

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Early life and career

Sergei Diaghilev was born to a wealthy and cultured family in Selischi (Novgorod gubernia), Russia; his father, Pavel Pavlovich, was a cavalry colonel, but the family's money came mainly from vodka distilleries.[1] After the death of Sergei's mother, his father married Elena Valerianovna Panaeva, an artistic young woman who was on very affectionate terms with her stepson and was a strong influence on him. The family lived in Perm but had an apartment in Saint Petersburg and a country estate in Bikbarda (near Perm).[2] In 1890, Sergei's parents went bankrupt, having for a long time lived beyond their means, and from that time Sergei (who had a small income inherited from his mother) had to support the family. After graduating from Perm gymnasium in 1890, he went to the capital to study law at St. Petersburg University, but ended up also taking classes at the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music where he studied singing and music (a love of which he had picked up from his stepmother). After graduating in 1892 he abandoned his dreams of composition (his professor, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, told him he had no talent for music). He had already entered an influential circle of artists who called themselves the Pickwickians: Alexandre Benois, Walter Nouvel, Konstantin Somov, Dmitri Filosofov, and Léon Bakst. Although not instantly received into the group, Diaghilev was aided by Benois in developing his knowledge of Russian and Western art. In two years, he had voraciously absorbed this new obsession (even travelling abroad to further his studies) and came to be respected as one of the most learned of the group.

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