Moving into a small residence in St.
Petersburg proper with what little money he could organize, he soon
answered a call for an assistant to a small attorney's office in the
city. Despite his lack of formal education, Eisenstein was
exceptionally bright and had learned by this point to read and write
in Cyrillic as well as Hebrew.
The barrister of the office, Sol Diaghilev, shared a common Semitic
heritage with Eisenstein. He was therefore not necessarily met with
the same level of contempt in this new occupation. He had actually
acquired many skills useful in the legal profession. His
multilingualism was very practical when working with cases, and he
had a great deal of experience working with different kinds of
people from his previous professions. Along with his continued
willingness to work with anyone else, he showed a youthful
In fact, after several years, he had grown to pay off his debts and
while he was hardly living well by any stretch of the imagination,
he was no longer constantly worrying when his next meal was going to
come. Eisenstein often worked long hours for little pay, however he
was thankful that he was given such an opportunity. On the other
hand, something still seemed to be missing to him.
He was not working
in the performing arts, which he still considered to be his calling.
Even if his fame would later come as a ballet impresario and a not a
performer, at this point he continuously imagined himself as a
musician. According to some reports, he would spend what little free
time he had on the street corners, performing on his Zither for the
kopeks people threw.
However, that was to change after working in this capacity for
several years. Approaching middle age by 1880s, he finally had his
chance. While continuing to maintain his job while working for long
hours, he answered a call at the local Sergeyev Theatre. While a
little known composer had submitted a ballet for production there
entitled "The Angel of the Desert." Though it may not be obvious
from the heading, the ballet was supposed to be an interpretation of
the Crimean War. However, it desperately needed a backer and someone
to organize it. In short, it needed an impresario who was quite
wealthy and experienced.
Sensing an opportunity to get into the show, he started to work
under an assumed name. Putting his business skills to good use, he
wagered everything he had on the production and claimed that he was
well experienced in such things. To his credit, it certainly seemed
as though he was. However, at the time it was probably an extremely
unwise thing to do. After all, he had the chance to loose more money
than he even had.