The Knight in the Panther’s Skin on Paris Stage
Keywords:«The Leopard», Serge Lifar, «Shota Rustaveli» ballet, Regeb Jordan, Monte Carlo Opera
In the 1880s, the publication and illustration of The Knight in the Panther’s Skin in Georgia was initiated by Giorgi Kartvelishvili. Meanwhile in emigration, staging of this genuine work on the Paris ballet stage was funded by the tycoon emigrant Beridze, about whom Rejeb Jordania gives an interesting memory in his book «I grew up in Leville»: “My mother had an idea, to stage a ballet based on the poem by the great Georgian poet of the twelfth century - Shota Rustaveli -The Knight in the Panther’s Skin. Her initiative was crowned with success”. Finances and responsibilities were distributed and dealt with. Contracts with lead performers were signed. Soon, rehearsals started in one of the halls of the Elysian Fields. The meetings were held daily between 10 am and 4 pm. The head of the ballet, Serge Lifar, directed everything and was the choreographer himself. Among the guests was Nikolai Evreinov, a well-known theatrical critic and author of numerous plays staged on world stages, who was commissioned to write a screenplay for a ballet based on the poem by Shota Rustaveli. Evreinov included in the script episodes from the lives of Rustaveli and Queen Tamar, as the poet dedicated his work to the latter. Russian artists Natasha Goncharova and Larionov, who created the scenery and costumes, were also invited to the ballet. Lifar invited the old maestro of Russian ballet as a choreographic consultant, thanks to whose amazing mind he was able to present the individual details of the movement, the rhythm. Since the ballet «Shota Rustaveli» was a new staging, Lifar had to study in depth the Russian translation of the poem by Balmont as well as the Georgian The Knight in the Panther’s Skin illustrated by the artist Mikhai Zich in order to grasp all the details. That is why Lifar invited Georgian dancer Petriashvili to the ballet to get acquainted with the ballet movements typical for Georgian dance, because including Georgian details in the performance was a necessary process. Work on the ballet was going on at an unprecedented pace. Serge Lifar introduced a new creative method. Usually, the choreographer first chooses the music, or the music is written especially for him, according to which he stages the dances. In the ballet «Shota Rustaveli» everything happened the other way around: Lifar first staged the dances, and the composers created the music on the scheme developed by the choreographer. After three years of rehearsals, it premiered at the Monte Carlo Opera in the spring of 1946. The ballet was performed on the Paris stage four times after the premiere. Then the ballet based on Shota Rustaveli’s poem disappeared from the stage and never returned. Even today, no one knows what happened to the music, the scenery or the costumes. Striving for something new is the first requirement of the human imagination, and finally, the truth became apparent that there was no greater pleasure for Georgian political emigrants and the ballet troupe than to enjoy creativity. Especially when it came to the most precious treasure for Georgians, Shota Rustaveli’s The Knight in the Panther’s Skin.