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Exhibitions

Ballets choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev

Manfred

Music: Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Synopsis and choreography: Rudolf Nureyev
Costume design: Nicholas Georgiadis

Ballet created for the Paris Opera Ballet and first performed on November 20, 1979 at the Palais des Sports, with Jean Guizerix and Wilfride Piollet in the principal roles

In the poem by Byron, Manfred seems predestined to destroy the ones he loves. In vain he sets out in search of Astarte, a paragon spirit who holds the power to allay the feelings of guilt that haunt him. In its choreographed version, Manfred gives free reign to the imagination around the theme adding other motifs borrowed from other poems by Byron. Rudolf Nureyev also drew inspiration from the libretto which Tchaikovsky based on the original work. The characters and events in the ballet also allude to the life of Byron himself. We discover the loves and hates of his youth, his untiring search for wisdom and peace through friendship, love and patriotic fervour.    

Rudolf Noureev (Le Poète) et Florence Clerc (Astarté, La Sœur), Palais des Sports, décembre 1979
Rudolf Noureev (Le Poète) et Florence Clerc (Astarté, La Sœur), Palais des Sports, décembre 1979 © Francette Levieux

Don Quixote

Music: Ludwig Minkus
Choreography: Rudolf Nureyev, after Marius Petipa
Set design: Alexandre Beliaev
Costume design: Elena Rivkina

Ballet first performed by the Paris Opera Ballet on March 6 1981 at the Palais Garnier, with Noëlla Pontois, Cyril Atanassoff, Élisabeth Platel and Jean-Yves Lormeau in the principal roles
New production in April 2002

The ballet Don Quixote was first created by Marius Petipa in 1869 in Moscow. Inspired by Cervantes' novel, it recounts the loves of Kitri and Basilio. Rudolf Nureyev first danced Don Quixote at the Kirov Theatre in 1960 and it became one of his favourite roles. In 1966 he restaged it for the Vienna Opera Ballet. That production entered the repertoire of the Paris Opera Ballet in 1981 at the request of Rosella Hightower, Director of Dance at the time. In 2002, on the occasion to the first performance of this ballet at the Opéra Bastille, the new costumes and sets are created.

Don Quichotte
Don Quichotte 6 images

Raymonda

Music: Alexander Glazunov
Choreography: Rudolf Nureyev, after Marius Petipa
Set and costume design: Nicholas Georgiadis

Ballet created for the Paris Opera Ballet and first performed on November 5 1983 at the Palais Garnier, with Élisabeth Platel, Charles Jude and Jean Guizerix, in the principal roles

Raymonda, one of Marius Petipa's last great ballets, premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in 1898. The story takes place in the Middle Ages during the Crusades. The knight Jean de Brienne must rescue his fiancée, Raymonda, from the clutches of Abderam, chief of the Saracens. Rudolf Nureyev restaged Raymonda in 1964 with the company of London’s Royal Ballet and passed it on to several companies. He gave it its definitive form in 1983 for the opening of the Paris Opera’s Ballet season, which also marked the start of his tenure as the House's Director of Dance.    

Raymonda
Raymonda 2 images

Romeo and Juliet

Music: Sergei Prokofiev
Choreography: Rudolf Nureyev
Set design: Ezio Frigerio
Costume design: Ezio Frigerio, Mauro Pagano

Ballet created for the Paris Opera Ballet and first performed on October 19 1984 at the Palais Garnier, with Monique Loudières, Patrick Dupond, Cyril Atanassoff and Jean-Pierre Franchetti in the principal roles

Sergei Prokofiev’s 1938 score inspired by William Shakespeare’s play, has given rise to numerous ballets, including the one by MacMillan in 1965 which Rudolf Nureyev performed with Margot Fonteyn. The dancer presented his own version in 1977 for the London Festival Ballet and then reworked it in 1984 for its entry into the Paris Opera Ballet’s repertoire. Opting for a powerful dramaturgy that combined pomp and violence, vividness and cruelty, the choreographer built a portrait of cinematographic proportions which recreated the passion of Shakespeare’s text to give the saga of the hapless lovers a resolutely modern feel.

Roméo et Juliette
Roméo et Juliette 4 images

Swan Lake

Music: Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreography: Rudolf Nureyev, after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
Set design: Ezio Frigerio
Costume design: Franca Squarciapino

Ballet created for the Paris Opera Ballet and first performed on December 20 1984 at the Palais Garnier with Élisabeth Platel, Charles Jude and Patrice Bart in the principal roles

Rudolf Nureyev danced Swan Lake with Margot Fonteyn in 1963, then with the Paris Opera Ballet Étoiles Noëlla Pontois and Claire Motte. In the version which he staged at the Palais Garnier in 1984, he offered a “Freudian” rereading of Petipa’s and Lev Ivanov’s ballet. Prince Siegfried shuns the realities of power and marriage to find refuge in a dream where an enchanted lake appears before him with a vision of idealised love in the form of a part-swan, part-human princess. More particularly, Nureyev revived the character of the tutor Wolfgang, and gave him greater complexity by identifying him with the evil spirit Rothbart. Omnipresent throughout, the latter becomes the destructive symbol in contradistinction to the hero’s ideal.    

Le Lac des cygnes
Le Lac des cygnes 6 images

The Nutcracker

Music: Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreography: Rudolf Nureyev, after Lev Ivanov et Marius Petipa
Set and costume design: Nicholas Georgiadis

Ballet created for the Paris Opera Ballet and first performed on December 19 1985 at the Palais Garnier, with Monique Loudières, Laurent Hilaire, Karin Averty and Manuel Legris in the principal roles

Rudolf Nureyev danced The Nutcracker when he was a student at the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, and then again as a young dancer at the Kirov, in versions that were very similar to Marius Petipa’s ballet. He revived the work in 1967 for the Royal Swedish Ballet, then for the Royal Ballet in London, and Milan’s La Scala Theatre Ballet the following year and then again at the Théâtre Colón in Buenos-Aires in 1971. The production he staged at the Berlin Opera in 1979 offered a psychoanalytical interpretation of Alexandre Dumas' tale in which Drosselmeyer and the Prince are one and the same, representing the masculine ideal as fantasised by Clara on the cusp of adolescence.    

Casse-Noisette
Casse-Noisette 4 images

Cinderella

Music: Sergei Prokofiev
Adaptation and choreography: Rudolf Nureyev
Set design: Petrika Ionesco
Costume design: Hanae Mori

Ballet created for the Paris Opera Ballet and first performed on October 25 1986 at the Palais Garnier, with Élisabeth Platel, Laurent Hilaire, Florence Clerc, Clotilde Vayer, Georges Piletta, Rudolf Nureyev and Stéphane Prince in the principal roles

When Rudolf Nureyev created Cinderella, the work was without precedent at the Paris Opera. Unlike the great classical repertoire, the story of a young orphan girl was something new at the Palais Garnier. Nureyev also chose to present the work in a new light by eschewing any reference to previous choreographic versions. He transposed Perrault’s tale into the realms of 1930s Hollywood where, discovered by a film producer, Cinderella makes her screen debut and, in doing so, wins the heart of the star actor who saves her from depression, develops her talent and propels her to superstar status.    

Cendrillon
Cendrillon 46 images

The Sleeping Beauty

Music: Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreography: Rudolf Nureyev, after Marius Petipa
Set design: Ezio Frigerio
Costume design: Franca Squarciapino

Ballet created for the Paris Opera Ballet and first performed on March 18 1989 at the Palais Garnier, with Élisabeth Maurin, Jean-Yves Lormeau, Viviane Descoutures, Nathalie Riqué and Georges Piletta in the principal roles.
New production in May 1997

The Sleeping Beauty counts among the “extravagantly epic” ballets choreographed by Marius Petipa for the Imperial Theatre in Saint Petersburg. First performed in 1890, it marks the beginning of Petipa’s fertile collaboration with the composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. In his first production of The Sleeping Beauty in 1966 at Milan’s La Scala, Rudolf Nureyev built on Petipa’s original choreography and introduced some of his own arrangements. The kingdom of Florestan is no longer a good-natured fantasy but a court stifled by etiquette and revealing the burden of power and the weight of tradition. The initial enchantment of Charles Perrault’s fairy tale gives way to a realist fable. And yet, in the midst of this Court, the youthful freshness of the Princess Aurore and the Prince Désiré herald the advent of a new world.    

La Belle au bois dormant
La Belle au bois dormant 2 images

La Bayadère

Music: Ludwig Minkus
Choreography: Rudolf Nureyev, after Marius Petipa
Set design: Ezio Frigerio
Costume design: Franca Squarciapino

Ballet created for the Paris Opera Ballet and first performed on October 8 1992 at the Palais Garnier, with Isabelle Guérin, Laurent Hilaire, Élisabeth Platel and Wilfried Romoli in the principal roles.

It took until May 1961 for La Bayadère, a pearl of the Russian repertoire, to at last reach Paris. On that date, the Kirov Ballet performed the Kingdom of the Shades for the first time outside the USSR with a dancer hitherto unknown in France: Rudolf Nureyev. That first appearance on the stage of the Palais Garnier would lead the young artist to phenomenal success. One month later, he asked for asylum at Le Bourget Airport and made the choice to remain in the West. Rudolf Nureyev restaged the act at London’s Royal Ballet in 1963 and then again, in 1974, at the Paris Opera. The production he staged in October 1992 at the Palais Garnier was the first complete three-act version of La Bayadère ever performed in France. It was his final creation, premiering three months before his death.    

La Bayadère
La Bayadère 6 images
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