Composers in Focus


Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Le Chant du Rossignol, Costume design for a warrior, ca. 1920. Ink on oiled paper. Howard D. Rothschild Collection. pf MS Thr 414.4 (100). Bequest, 1989.

Le Chant du Rossignol

The ballet Le Chant du Rossignol was based on Stravin­sky’s opera Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The opera had been designed by Alexandre Benois, but the ballet was the only one of Diaghilev’s produc­tions to be designed by Henri Matisse, following two successful productions (including Parade and Le Tricorne) that had been designed by Pablo Picasso. Both Le Rossignol and Le Chant du Rossignol were based on a story by Hans Christian Anderson about a mechan­ical songbird that was a gift from the Emper­or of Japan to the Emperor of China. Matisse’s cos­tumes were inspired by images on Chinese porcelain, screens, and silk. The ballet was restaged in 1925 with new choreo­graphy by George Balanchine, but Matisse’s costumes were retained.