• Roxanne Copping

Student thesis: Phd


The primary focus of this thesis is a selection of lesser-known Ballets Russes works, which, despite being largely neglected in academic studies, constitute important chapters in the history of the company. The bright light of publicity that shone on Stravinsky - in particular on Le Sacre du Printemps - has cast shadows over other Ballets Russes works, creating an over-simplified historical perspective. This is not to deny that Le Sacre was a watershed moment for the company, and in seeking to enrich our understanding of its place within broader musical trends, the thesis is divided into three sections, representing works composed before, around the same time as, and after, Stravinsky's notorious masterpiece. Following a brief introduction, and a descriptive chapter outlining Diaghilev's artistic heritage, as well as Paris before the arrival of his company, the first section deals with the Ballets Russes's early modus operandi; focusing on Nikolai Tcherepnin's Le Pavillon d'Armide and Reynaldo Hahn's Le Dieu bleu. The next explores the Ballets Russes in the wake of Le Sacre du Printemps, using Erik Satie's Parade as an example of a ballet indebted to Stravinsky's innovations. However, influence was not entirely a one-way phenomenon, and part of this section also discusses connections between the early Ballets Russes works and Le Sacre. Finally, the season of French ballets performed in 1924 allows me to reflect on the stylistic changes that occurred in the later years of the company, using Darius Milhaud's Le Train bleu, Georges Auric's Les Fâcheux, and Francis Poulenc's Les Biches as examples of the company's shift to an enterprise that placed greater emphasis on the visual.This research argues that even the lesser-known works, despite their apparent lack of musical innovation, contributed to the more path-breaking scores that have come to command scholarly interest. Moreover, the seasons I have highlighted reflect the changing ideologies of Diaghilev and his company, as it evolved from a Russian troupe inspired by the Mir Iskusstva, to a European artistic collective presenting the ideas of Cocteau and Les Six to Paris.Areas of future research extend from this thesis, as many other lesser-known ballets not encompassed here would clearly benefit from detailed scrutiny. Applying the principles of musical examination here outlined, together with an open-minded approach to new historical perspectives, should further help to redress the balance of scholarly attention that has skewed the overall understanding of the Ballets Russes.
Date of Award31 Dec 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDavid Fanning (Supervisor) & Susan Rutherford (Supervisor)


  • Poulenc
  • Auric
  • Milhaud
  • Hahn
  • Stravinsky
  • Diaghilev
  • Ballets Russes
  • Tcherepnin

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