Interview with Simon Semenoff, 1976
NamesSemenoff, Simon, 1908-1987 (Interviewee)Kramer, Joan (Interviewer)
Dance Oral History Project
Dates / OriginDate Created: 1976-08-13 - 1976-11-19
Library locationsJerome Robbins Dance DivisionShelf locator: *MGZT 5-1077 (former)Shelf locator: *MGZTO 5-1077
TopicsSemenoff, Simon, 1908-1987Reinhardt, Max, 1873-1943Woizikowski, LéonGibson, IanCuevas, George de, marquis, 1885-1961Fedorova, Alexandra, 1884-1972Blum, René, 1878-1942Hightower, RosellaAshton, Frederick, 1904-1988Messerer, Asaf, 1903-1992Ulanova, Galina Sergeevna, 1910-1998Nureyev, Rudolf, 1938-1993Markova, Alicia, Dame, 1910-2004Moiseev, Igorʹ, 1906-2007Pliset︠s︡kai︠a︡, Maĭi︠a︡, 1925-2015Chase, Lucia, 1897-1986Harkness, Rebekah West, -1982Hurok, Sol, 1888-1974Ballet InternationalLatvijas Nacionālā opera. BaletsBallet Russe de Monte CarloBallet Theatre (New York, N.Y.)American Ballet TheatreGrand Ballet de Monte CarloHurok Concerts, IncHurok Attractions, Inc. (New York, N.Y.)Australian BalletLeningradskiĭ gosudarstvennyĭ akademicheskiĭ teatr opery i baleta imeni S.M. KirovaMariinskiĭ teatr (1991- ). BaletGift of the magi (Choreographic work : Semenoff)Memories (Choreographic work : Semenoff)Ballet school (Choreographic work : Messerer)Gift of the magi (Choreographic work : Semenoff)Memories (Choreographic work : Semenoff)Performing arts -- Management
NotesBibliographic history: Title supplied by cataloger.Source characteristics: Sound quality is fair. The recording is marred by extraneous noise including continuous and significant "tape hiss" as well as occasional "stutter" and short gaps.Venue: Recorded for The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts 1976, August 13, September 1, 2, 9, 15, 20, 27, and 30; October 9, 1976, and November 10 and 19, New York (N.Y.)Funding: The conservation and cataloging of this recording was made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The support of the National Endowment for the Arts is also gratefully acknowledged.
Physical DescriptionAudiotape reelExtent: 6 audiotape reels (approximately 19 hr., 5 min.) : analog, 1.875 ips, half-track, polyester; 5 in.
DescriptionStreaming file no. 1, August 31 and September 1, 1976 (approximately one hour and 38 minutes). Simon Semenoff speaks with Joan Kramer about his childhood in Latvia and Poland, and early dance experiences; performing with the ballet company of the Latvian National Opera [Latvijas Nacionālā opera] and studying with Alexandra Fedorova; an anecdote about his being fired; performing for Max Reinhardt, including an anecdote about Kyra Nijinska; performing in works choreographed by [Leonide] Massine; leaving the opera company ballet in Latvia to work in Paris, due to rising anti-semitism; his time in Paris, including his work for Reinhardt and association with [Anatole] Vilzak; his [first] wife and the birth of his daughter; his teachers in Paris: Olga Preobrajenska and [Lubov Nikolaevna] Egorova; Igor Youskevitch [ends abruptly but continues on streaming file no. 2].
Streaming file no. 2, August 31 and September 1, 1976 (approximately one hour and 38 minutes). Simon Semenoff continues to speak with Joan Kramer about his time in Paris including his memories of Josephine Baker; performing with [Igor] Youskevitch with the Ballets de Léon Woizikowski; his impressions of Léon Woizikowski and of [Aleksandr Konstantinovich] Glazounov; dancers with whom he performed, including Victorina Krieger and [Asaf] Messerer; his memories of [Vasiliĭ Dmitrievich] Tikhomirov; Tamara Karsavina, and Olga Spessivtzeva; joining the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo; René Blum; some of his roles at the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo; his choreographing; Bronislava Nijinska; dancing with [Michel] Fokine, in Latvia; his impressions of [Leonide] Massine; Dr. Coppélius as Semenoff's signature role; touring in the United States with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo; performing at La Scala, in Italy, with Hitler, Goering, and Goebbels at the theater; the murder of Semenoff's wife and child by the Nazis; Sergei Denham and Julius Fleischmann and his wife; Serge Lifar including an anecdote about Lifar, Leonide Massine, and Massine's ballet St. Francis; training the young dancer Ian Gibson and taking him on tour to South America; his bitter disagreements with the White Russians about Hitler and the Nazis, while en route to South America; his decision to leave the company [ends abruptly but continues on streaming file no. 3].
Streaming file no. 3, September 1 and 2, 1976 (approximately one hour and 45 minutes). Simon Semenoff speaks with Joan Kramer about leaving Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo to perform with Ballet Theatre [later American Ballet Theatre]; more on Ian Gibson including his great success in the United States; choreographers who worked with the company including Michel Fokine and Madame [Bronislava] Nijinska; Lucia Chase; Fokine's [unfinished] ballet Helen of Troy; Anton Dolin; Semenoff's ballet Memories; Marquis [George] de Cuevas; working with [David] Lichine on Helen of Troy; his roles at Ballet Theatre; his marriage, to Linda Bowen Mallinson, and his ballet The gift of the magi; George Balanchine and Semenoff's never-produced ballet Dybbuk; Rosella Hightower including an anecdote about her and Swan lake; his memory of Fokine teaching [Alicia] Markova his ballet The dying swan; leaving Ballet Theatre and Sol Hurok to work with the Marquis de Cuevas and his company [Ballet International; in 1947 De Cuevas formed The Grand Ballet de Monte Carlo]; the dancers in the company including [Alexander] Iolas; more on Memories; Ida Rubenstein; more on The gift of the magi; moving to California and teaching; his family; working with [Michael] Panaieff on three new ballets [ends abruptly but continues on streaming file no. 4].
Streaming file no. 4, September 1 and 2, 1976 (approximately one hour and 11 minutes). Simon Semenoff speaks with Joan Kramer about his work Carmen; his personal life; choreographing for the television show, Ballet vignettes; [Rudolf] Nureyev including Nureyev's admiration for Rosella Hightower; his impressions of Olga Spessivtzeva, Galina Ulanova, and Margot Fonteyn; an anecdote about Maya Plisetskaya; an anecdote about Galina Vishnevskaya and Rudolf Bing; how he first met Sol Hurok; moving to Connecticut with his family, opening a school, and his divorce; visiting the [former] Soviet Union, including Riga; working for Sol Hurok as a dance coordinator, in particular his role in bringing Soviet companies and dancers to the United States [ends abruptly but continues on streaming file no. 5].
Streaming file no. 5, September 9 and 15, 1976 (approximately one hour and 38 minutes). Simon Semenoff speaks with Joan Kramer about Frederick Ashton; Max Reinhardt and The merchant of Venice; the Royal Ballet; including [Rudolf] Nureyev and his partnership with Margot Fonteyn; more on Ashton; World War II and his escape, with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, from Belgium to the United States; René Blum's death; publicity and interaction with fans; an anecdote about Serge Lifar, Tamara Toumanova, and Alicia Markova, in Giselle; his memories of Max Reinhardt in the United States; memories of and anecdotes about: Adolphe Bolm; Boris Kochno; Leonide Massine; Serge Diaghilev; reminiscences of Igor Stravinsky; Kenneth MacMillan; his admiration for Ashton's ballet A month in the country; an anecdote about his reunion after many years with Asaf Messerer [ends abruptly but continues on streaming file no. 6].
Streaming file no. 6, September 9 and 15, 1976 (approximately one hour and 36 minutes). Simon Semenoff speaks with Joan Kramer about Sol Hurok's bringing the Bolshoi Ballet to New York including working with Asaf Messerer to cast American children for Messerer's ballet The ballet school; reminiscences of Galina Ulanova; more on Messerer; Maya Plisetskaya including her interpretation of [Michel Fokine's] The dying swan; an anecdote about Rudolf Nureyev; Sol Hurok; Margot Fonteyn including his admiration for her interpretation of Michel Fokine's ballet Chopiniana [Les sylphides]; anecdote about Fonteyn and George Perper; more on Nureyev including Hurok's initial reluctance to engage him; Semenoff's first dance performances and character roles; the ballet Coppélia including the roles of Dr. Coppélius and of Franz.
Streaming file no. 7, September 20 and 27, 1976 (approximately one hour and 38 minutes). Simon Semenoff speaks with Joan Kramer about his childhood dance performances at the Latvian National Opera; his dance routines at nightclubs and other venues; Alexandra Fedorova; Anatole Vilzak, her successor as choreographer and ballet master at the Latvian National Opera; choreographing for Max Reinhardt, in Italy; Fokine's ballet Petrouchka; working with Nureyev; [Igor] Moiseeev; bringing the Kirov Ballet [now the Maryinsky Ballet] to the United States including how impressed he was by [Natalia] Makarova; Sol Hurok's death; reminiscences of Hurok; Leonide Massine; Jerome Robbins; Lucia Chase including her unkind behavior to Mikhail Mordkin; the guest star system [ends abruptly but continues on streaming file 8].
Streaming file no. 8, September 20 and 27, 1976 (approximately one hour and 38 minutes). Simon Semenoff speaks with Joan Kramer about Sol Hurok, his second wife Emma Perper and his daughter Ruth Hurok; the gala at the Metropolitan Opera House for Hurok; Hurok as an employer including an anecdote about Nureyev; the sale of Hurok's business [Hurok Concerts, Inc. and Hurok Attractions]; (very briefly) Walter Prude; Agnes de Mille; the effect of Hurok's death on the business; Semenoff's business relations with the company after Hurok's death, including his differences with Sheldon Gold and George Perper [ends abruptly but continues on streaming file no. 9].
Streaming file no. 9, September 30 and October 9, 1976 (approximately one hour and 38 minutes). Simon Semenoff speaks with Joan Kramer about a party held for Igor Moiseev and his folk dance company; various anecdotes about Rudolf Nureyev including his performing of José Limón's The moor's pavane and Balanchine's Apollo; Nureyev's relationship with the Hurok companies and with Sheldon Gold after Gold started his own company; Natalia Dudinskaya; reminiscences about Marc Chagall; anecdotes about: Maya Plisetskaya, Hurok, and Robert F. Kennedy; Shirley MacLaine; Natalia Bessmertnova, her costume for The dying swan, and Violette Verdy; René Blum and [Nicholas] Zverev; the ballet Helen of Troy and Semenoff's almost dying of appendicitis.
Streaming file no. 10, September 30 and October 9, 1976 (approximately one hour and 38 minutes.). Simon Semenoff speaks with Joan Kramer about his childhood performances and choreography including his partnership with his sister; Alexandra Fedorova; his first marriage, in Riga, Latvia; anecdotes from life on tour; his roles including roles he would have liked to have danced; reminiscences about Olga Spessivtzeva; Anton Dolin and Semenoff's ballet The gift of the magi; his friendship with Bronislava Nijinska; Kyra Nijinska including their dancing together in Helen of Troy; (briefly), Romola de Pulszky Nijinsky; an anecdote about auditioning with Lubov Tchernicheva for Colonel W. de Basil; his thoughts on reviving his ballet The gift of the magi; his admiration for the ballet Coppélia [ends abruptly].
Streaming file no. 11, November 10 and 19, 1976 (approximately one hour and 37 minutes). Simon Semenoff speaks with Joan Kramer about Alicia Markova, including an anecdote about Serge Lifar, Tamara Toumanova, and Markova's costume in Giselle; Anton Dolin and André Eglevsky as dancers; the production of his ballet Memories by the Marquis de Cuevas' company; his marriage [to Linda Bowen Mallinson]; working with Alicia Alonso on his honeymoon in Cuba; choreographing The gift of the magi; working as a guest artist; his school in Connecticut; anecdotes about the Festival Ballet's producion of The gift of the magi in Monte Carlo; working for Rebekah Harkness; the circumstances of his leaving Harkness's employ including her hiring of Jerome Robbins [ends abruptly].
Streaming file no. 12, November 10 and 19, 1976 (approximately one hour and 30 minutes). Simon Semenoff speaks with Joan Kramer about bringing Rudolf Nureyev, in Don Quixote with the Australian Ballet, to the United States, including Sol Hurok's initial efforts to engage [Edward] Villella instead of Nureyev; the Hurok's hiring of [Sheldon] Gold; anecdotes about Nureyev and about Hurok and Van Cliburn; representing Nureyev and the National Ballet of Canada including the negotiations with Celia Franca; working with Nureyev in connection with other engagements including his dancing of Apollo and in The moor's pavane and Les sylphides; Semenoff's relationship with Gold; his opinions of various companies, dancers, and choreographers.
Type of ResourceSound recording
IdentifiersRLIN/OCLC: 83188415 NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b12118927Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 35e02be0-3159-0132-d741-3c075448cc4b
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