SAN FRANCISCO--()--Russia, 1918: as the last echo of the old world gives way to the bold voice of the new, four artistic giants – Igor Stravinsky, Vsevelod Meyerhold, George Balanchine, and Alexander Golovin – intersect in a sumptuous production of Le Rossignol (The Nightingale or Solovei as it is known in Russian) at the Mariinsky Theatre.
“In many ways this production exemplifies the best of their decade-long collaboration, which crafted a new type of theatre that altered the relationship of the actor to the audience as well as to the scenic environment, changing the way depth and perspective were conceived in the theatrical space.”
It is the last gasp of Imperial, theatrical grandeur in war-torn St. Petersburg. And it receives just one performance.
But for a selection of Golovin’s costume and set designs published in a German periodical in 1923, and a few working copies of the costume sketches in a St. Petersburg museum, all physical traces of the production were lost.
After a mysterious journey from St. Petersburg to Hong Kong, the complete set of Golovin’s magnificent Le Rossignol watercolors found their way to San Francisco. Now prominently displayed in an incomparable urban estate, owned by a family with Russian roots and ties to Leon Bakst (legendary designer for the Ballets Russes), a selection of Golovin’s sketches are available at www.golovincollection.com.
“The Mariinsky’s production of Le Rossignol is perhaps most notable as the last collaboration of Meyerhold and Golovin, who almost single-handedly redefined 20th Century theatre as the age of the director and the designer,” said Brad Rosenstein, co-curator of the Golovin Collection. “In many ways this production exemplifies the best of their decade-long collaboration, which crafted a new type of theatre that altered the relationship of the actor to the audience as well as to the scenic environment, changing the way depth and perspective were conceived in the theatrical space.”
“The extraordinary beauty and imagination of Golovin’s designs for Solovei are some of the richest in his body of work,” Rosenstein said. “His lush Orientalist exoticism is very much of a piece with Stravinsky’s music, springing from the same Russian mystical roots. From the beginning of their collaboration, Golovin and Meyerhold had pioneered the bold use of color onstage to convey theatrical mood, and the Solovei designs represent an apotheosis of all their discoveries. After so many decades, it is remarkable that the production designs survived intact.”
Rosenstein and his co-curator, Kathryn Mederos Syssoyeva, plan to mount a significant public exhibition of the Golovin Collection, and have already received expressions of interest from RGALI, the St. Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music, and The Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow for contributions to the exhibition.