The First Season


Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947). Prince Igor, Scene design for Act III, undated. Gouache and charcoal. Stravinsky-Diaghilev Foundation Collection. Framed storage. MS Thr 495 (302a). Gift of Parmenia Migel Ekstrom, 1990.

The Polovtsian Dances

The Polovtsian Dances, a ballet excerpt from Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, was one of the highlights of the first Ballets Russes season in 1909, and over the two decades of the company’s performances it was given a total of 827 times. The piece originally concluded the opera’s second act, containing celebratory dances by the young Polovtsian men and women of Khan Konchak’s nomadic tribe.  Fokine’s theatrical and athletic choreography joined with Roerich’s designs to create a feeling of authenticity and Eastern exoticness for the Ballets Russes’s eager Western audiences. The Polovtsian Dances were produced as a ballet with singers in 1909, Diaghilev’s first ballet season.

This scene design depicts Prince Galitsky’s Courtyard in the opera Prince Igor. It is not directly related to Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes production, which comprised only the act that takes place in the Polovtsian Camp, but rather from a production of the entire opera that Roerich designed not long afterward.