Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Story Looking For Its Movie

Some stories just seem to be looking for their movie, and this one is particularly high on that list.

Rather than a too long-winded telling the story, I thought I'd bullet point a few of the more startling events in the particularly startling life of Mathilde Kschessinskaya (1872-1971) - and there were certainly plenty of them.

  • As the C19 drew to a close, she was the Prima Ballerina Assoluta of the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg

  • At the age of seventeen, the ballerina had became the mistress of Nicholas II, when grand duke
  • Even more scandalously for the day, she then formed a ménage à trois with two Grand Dukes of the Romanov family - Sergei Mikhailovich and his cousin Andrei Vladimirovich
  • In 1902, she gave birth to a son, Prince Vladimir Sergeyevich Romanovsky-Krasinsky ('Vova'), who quite naturally was never sure who his father was

  • Throwing realism completely to the wind, the ballerina would have selections from her valuable jewels sewn onto her costumes - for example, coming on stage as the Princess Aspicia in The Pharaoh's Daughter wearing a diamond encrusted tiara and choker - not a little like the American opera singer Leontyne Price who infamously jewelled up for the role of the enslaved Nubian princess in 'Aida'

  • Kschessinskaya comissioned the famed Russian jeweller, Carl Faberge, to design a fetching gold and pearl encrusted, shall we say, 'top'

  • It was from the balcony of her elegant house in Moscow that Lenin addressed a revolutionary crowd on his return from Finland in 1917

  • In staggeringly stereotypic fashion, Mathilde escaped the Russian revolution with her jewel collection intact, moved to Europe and in 1921 married Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich, becoming Her Serene Highness Princess Romanova-Krasinskaya
  • The impresario Serge de Diaghilev invited the prima ballerina to dance with the famed Ballets Russes at the Paris Opera but she declined
  • The family moved to Monte Carlo, where Mathilde dissipated the remaining wealth of family at the gamblimg tables - the remainder was sequestered by the crash of 1929
  • Back in Paris, Grand Duke Andre was reduced to driving a taxi
  • Kschessinskaya opened a ballet school in the French capital, teaching at times the likes of Ballets Russes ballerina Dame Alicia Markova, the Ballets Russes 'baby ballerinas' Tatiana Riabouchinska and Tamara Toumanova and The Royal Ballet's Dame Margot Fonteyn

Mathilde Kschessinskaya teaching 'baby ballerina' Tatiana Riabouchinska

  • The prima ballerina absoluta performed one last time, aged 64, at a charity event with TheRoyal Ballet at Covent Garden
  • Mathilde Kschessinskaya died in her 100th year.

'Alright already'!

Now this post was primarily prompted by my having come across 1920s footage of this 'larger than life' character at some kind of outdoor social gathering - she is seen in characteristically imperious mode greeting guests and firmly directing proceedings. And at the end there's a little section showing her son 'Vovo' loading up his plate from the outdoor buffet!

Her dying words?

'My life was beautiful'

You betcha baby!

And it makes our own seem just a tad on the dull and uneventful side. Well, mine at least - I don't know about yours!!!

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