The story of Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes has been told many times before, but no one is able to master it more engagingly than Rupert Christiansen, the veteran opera critic and self-confessed 'incurable balletomane'. He comes to his subject with a head stuffed full not just of pas de deux and grands jetés but also all the gossip and scandal that trailed in Diaghilev’s choppy wake ... In deft, elegant prose Christiansen takes us through the postwar period, showing us how Diaghilev’s revolutionary vision was carried forward by a corps of British-based star choreographers and dancers including Frederick Ashton, Kenneth MacMillan, Robert Helpmann, Ninette de Valois, Anton Dolin and Margot Fonteyn.
Amusing and assertive ... There was not an obvious need for such a book ... The author seems to have undergone the task for the sheer love of it, and his delight is infectious ... You may not be bonkers for ballet, as the author is, but Diaghilev’s Empire will help you comprehend its allure and — unprimly, with whimsy — the enterprising mogul who made people begin to take it seriously.
Mr. Christiansen, in a preface, admits to having done no original research. Yet his extensive notes and bibliography indicate that he has read just about everything on this subject, and has assimilated it all into an engrossing, amusingly opinionated and poignant narrative ... Mr. Christiansen takes enormous pleasure in describing Diaghilev’s first season in Paris ... Mr. Christiansen’s postscripts to the dissolution of Diaghilev’s grand enterprise—and his tracing of the company’s legacy, especially in England—are more informative than riveting.