Rudolf Nureyev and Ballet St Petersburg

February 1, 2019

Giselle dancers taken backstage at the Mariinsky Theater

photo by Roy Webb

 

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Giselle is a world-famous ballet in two acts with a libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Theophile Gautier, music by Adolphe Adam, and choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot. The librettist took his inspiration from a poem by Heinrich Heine. The ballet tells the story of a lovely peasant girl named Giselle who has a passion for dancing, and when she finds out the man she loves is engaged to someone else she dies of a broken heart.

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The Mariinsky Theater was established in 1783 following a decree by Empress Catherine the Great to stage the first Russian comic operas and the best works of foreign composers. The current theater building on Theater Square was opened in 1860. The theater‘s magnificent decor of dazzling white sculptures, lustrous gilt chandeliers and light blue upholstery created the perfect atmosphere in which to herald in St. Petersburg‘s golden period of operatic history.

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At the beginning of the 20th Century, legendary artists such as Fyodor Chaliapin, Anna Pavlova and Vladislav Nijinsky graced the Mariinsky‘s stage. Under Soviet rule, one of the greatest Russian dancers and considered one of the greatest dancers of the 20th century, Rudolf  Nureyev acclaimed for his dazzling virtuosity, controlled expressiveness and electrifying charisma. Nureyev's rose to become the Kirov Ballet leading dancer. However, after defecting to the West in 1961, his name was banned in Russian. Today in modern Russia there is growing respect for his place in dance history.

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"Nureyev's presence in the world of Western ballet has provided a generation of male dancers with a new raison d'etre," wrote critic-author John Gruen. "Single-highhandedly, and with incalculable effect, he brought dance into the consciousness of the worldwide public - from the man in the street to the ballet specialist.

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After defecting to the West,  Nureyev caught the world's attention with his 17-year partnership with British ballerina Margot Fonteyn.  As director of the Paris Opera Ballet, he led the company to critical, often controversial success in the mid-1980s. Martha Graham and George Balanchine were inspired to create original works for him. Nureyev's own choreography credits include revamped versions of nearly all the standard ballet classics and several original works, including "Cinderella," set in 1930s Hollywood. Rudolf Nureyev was born March 17, 1938, on a train that was passing Irkutsk on Lake Baikal in Siberia. 

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When he defected by jumping a fence at Le Bourget Airport in Paris. He was granted political asylum and became a naturalized Austrian citizen in 1982. Two days after his defection, Nureyev signed a contract with the Paris-based International Ballet of the Marquis de Cuevas. The next year, he began his celebrated partnership with Margot Fonteyn. Their pairing assured full houses on the U.S. tours of the Royal Ballet. Nureyev's American stage debut was in New York in 1962.

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In 1983, he was appointed artistic director of the Paris Opera Ballet. There he invited avant-garde choreographers such as Karole Armitage, Michael Clark and Lucinda Childs to create new works and he changed the undisciplined French dancers into some of the world's finest.

 

 

Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993)

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