Simon Morrison

Simon Morrison is a historian at Princeton specialising in Russian and Soviet music. His most recent book is Bolshoi Confidential.

The Bedroom of a Sorcerer: Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison, 2 April 2020

Marius Petipa​ not only created ballets but made ‘ballet’ itself into an art. He choreographed the bulk of the 19th-century canon, including La Bayadère, Don Quixote, The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, maintaining a classical style in the face of shifting trends – from Romanticism in the mid-1800s to Symbolism at the turn of the 20th century. Alone and...

On 19 March, Anatoly Iksanov, the general director of the Bolshoi Theatre, held a press conference in Moscow to announce a month-long festival to celebrate the centenary of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. His aim was to reclaim the ballet for the nation that inspired it. (It had its premiere in Paris in 1913.) Most of the journalists who cleared the metal detectors were familiar faces...

In April 1955, two years after Prokofiev’s death from a stroke, his widow and his two sons arranged for two chests of documents to be shipped to Moscow from New York. Prokofiev had left them in a safe during his final overseas tour in 1938, presumably because he worried that his personal papers might fall into the hands of Soviet agents. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, charged with...

From The Blog
10 July 2013

On Monday, Anatoly Iksanov, the besieged general director of the Bolshoi Theatre, was forced to resign. It has been speculated in Moscow that his departure was hastened by Yuri Grigorovich, the octogenarian éminence grise of the Russian dance scene, who had not to this point got involved. The intervention was long overdue, in the opinion of Iksanov’s harshest critics, who have compared his tenure to a plague in the land. His supporters say he did the best he could to handle crises of a sort that no screenwriter would dare contrive.

Many Promises: Prokofiev in Russia

Sheila Fitzpatrick, 14 May 2009

It is generally assumed that Soviet composers like Prokofiev and Shostakovich were forced by the regime to simplify their style and write ‘life-affirming’ music that conformed to the...

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