On 26 February 2021, the head of the Preservation Department of the Russian State Art Library (RSAL) Olga Boldyreva, DSci History, gave a lecture entitled ‘Ballet Librettos by Nikolai Volkov in RSAL’s Collections’.
Theatre critic, bibliophile, and collector Nikolay Volkov (1894-1965), who made a significant contribution to the study of the work of director Vsevolod Meyerhold, was an unusually versatile and multifaceted person. Having lost his position at the State Academy of Artistic Sciences, Nikolay Volkov began to compose librettos interpreting the outstanding works of Alexander Pushkin, Maxim Gorky, Shota Rustaveli, Charles de Coster, and also of Russian and Western European folklore.
The great composers Boris Asafiev, Sergei Prokofiev, and Aram Khachaturian wrote music based on his dramatic scripts. Based on Volkov’s liberettos, ballet directors, used such classic works and masters as Mikhail Glinka, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Johann Strauss. Many performances, such as The Flames of Paris, The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, Cinderella, and Spartacus, continue to be staged in various ballet productions in Russia and abroad. Colleagues, composers, and choreographers noted the amazing creative flexibility of their co-author, his ability to listen and hear, his incredible depth, and the breadth of his cultural horizons. He could largely predict the success of a work, its future fate, and the response of the audience.
Not all of Volkov’s dramatic works reached the public: historical and political realities, and wars prevented some ballets from appearing on the stage. Nikolay Volkov’s successful productions and unrealised projects in the field of ballet were discussed at the lecture ‘Nikolay Volkov’s Ballet Librettos’.
At the lecture was an exhibition of books, published and handwritten scripts of performances, and archival documents from RSAL’s collection.