As a superb theatre administrator, Alexander Schouvaloff was the first curator of the popular and much-missed Theatre Museum in Covent Garden, which covered the history of the performing
arts – from opera to music hall and from circus to live art – from the 16th to the 20th century.
Later, he mounted a much-admired exhibition about the designers of costumes worn by dancers in the Ballet Russes, the company founded by the great Russian ballet impresario Diaghilev. As an acknowledged authority on Diaghilev, Schouvaloff staged the exhibition first in Edinburgh and then at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Descended from Russian aristocrats, Schouvaloff attended Harrow School, where he played the title role in Hamlet. From 1965, he worked with both Lord Harewood and Peter Diamond at the Edinburgh festival and helped to create productions of Euripides’ The Trojan Women, staged by Frank Dunlop’s Pop Company, and Ibsen’s The Cherry Orchard, mounted by the Prospect Company, which had been founded at the Oxford Playhouse.
From 1967 to 1974, he was director of North West Arts, the arts council’s office covering Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire and Cumbria.
The origins of the Theatre Museum date back to before the First World War when a collector, Gabrielle Enthoven, began campaigning for a national museum of theatre arts. The V&A took custody of her collection in 1924 and continued adding to it until she died in 1950. Another collector, Harry Beard, handed over 20,000 theatrical and operatic prints, texts and programmes in 1971.
Schouvaloff and the director of the V&A, Roy Strong, spent some time searching for premises for the museum. At one time, Somerset House was considered. But eventually a site on the piazza at Covent Garden, the former headquarters of a firm of fruiterers, was chosen.
The museum prospered, but Schouvaloff’s hitherto good relations with Strong, and his successor Elizabeth Esteve-Coll, grew fractious. He left the museum in 1989, and in 2007 it closed because of a lack of funds.
Born on May 4, 1928, Alexander Schouvaloff died on January 13. He was 84.
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