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Nureyev in Leningrad, 1958. Photograph by Y. Lesov.

Nureyev in Leningrad, 1958. Photograph by Y. Lesov.

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NUREYEV, Rudolf (b.Irkutsk Region, Siberia, 17 March 1938; d.Paris, 6 January 1993)




"I am the rider of the wind
The stirrer of the storm
The hurricane I left behind
Is yet with lightning warm"

Byron : Manfred, a dramatic poem (1817)





"For me travel has always been a passion. I have travelled enormously. ... There will always be travel. I can never stop now."
Sunday Telegraph 30 October 1983

"I came from a golden age at the Kirov when the classics were still carefully preserved; and I multiplied this with the Royal Ballet.... Massine was still around and the company had nurtured the Fokine tradition I never knew in Russia."
Observer 21 April 1991

Alla Osipenko: "He enriched Western ballet with his talent while our own was deprived of it. ... He gave the West the great traditions of Russian ballet while back in his own country all people could say was : ‘He wanted to become a millionaire.’ And, by God, he did. He deserved it because of his unbounded love for the stage. For that was his home, his love, and his life."
Rudolf Nureyev, Three Years in the Kirov Theatre. St. Petersburg, 1995.

Nureyev: "I loved dancing classical ballets with Margot - they came alive. Giselle was the summit. ...I don’t know what it is, but if you look at the photographs in performance at any moment, our hands would be parallel, our heads would be moving in the same direction ... as if we had been lined up in front of a mirror."

Margot Fonteyn : "If I think my step is more expressive than his, it involves a fight. He’s more set in his ideas than I am in mine. Although he admires what he calls my 'progressive mind', he’s not always willing to change himself. If I do what he wants, I’m progressive. If I don’t, I’m retrogressive."
Woman’s Journal 1971 interviews with Ian Woodward

Nureyev on Fonteyn : "Suddenly she told me that her first Swan Lake was 1938. That was my birthday, so I started to laugh.... When we went on stage all differences, all arguments were forgotten. We became one body one soul...."
Patricia Foy’s documentary

Nureyev on Petrushka : "This is not simply the story of a puppet. It is the story of a human life when it is manipulated. Actually, it is a parable .... Petrushka is also like a Gogol character. A little human being who cries out, ‘I exist! I exist! This little me.’ And the puppet Petrushka says, ‘Look at me. I’m alive! Me! Me! Me! Listen to me!"
Ballet News March 1981

Margot Fonteyn "... No other dancer in our time has had posters saying NUREYEV FESTIVAL, NUREYEV SEASON. Yet year after year the banners hang outside the theatre with his name on them .... In the past ballet meant ballerinas. It was unheard of for a man to be able to fill a theatre on his name alone..."
Sunday Telegraph 27 January 1980

Nureyev : "Inside I am only 23, an eternal youth . ... Dancing, for me, is forever"
Quote from obituaries, 1993

Nureyev in 1981: "Maybe I’m not ideal but I do think that what I do won’t easily be forgotten. It will leave an imprint"

(Please click the thumbnails below to view larger image)

Leningrad, Kirov Theatre, Wednesday 26 February 1958. Programme cover for the Vaganova school matinee of Nutcracker, with Nureyev dancing the Nutcracker Prince. Nureyev as the Nutcracker Prince, 1959. Photograph by V. Korolkov. Cast list from the same programme, with Alla Sizova as Masha and Nureyev as the Nutcracker Prince.

Kirov Theatre, Vaganova School Graduation Performance programme, Tuesday 24 June 1958. Nureyev danced the pas de deux from Le Corsaire with Alla Sizova and an extract from Gayaneh.

As Frondoso in Laurencia (Krein/Chabukiani), with Natalia Dudinskaya. His first performance in this challenging role on 20 November 1958, was his post-graduation debut with the Kirov company. Dudinskaya, one of Russia’s most distinguished ballerinas, chose him to be her partner, an extraordinary honour for a new graduate. Photograph by Y. Lesov. Pas de deux from Le Corsaire with Alla Sizova, Kirov Ballet, 1959. Photograph by Y. Lesov. As Albrecht in Giselle with Irina Kolpakova, Kirov Ballet, 1959. Photograph by M. Gershman.

Nureyev, Leningrad. Photograph by Tamara Zakrshevskaya. Nureyev, Leningrad, March 1960. Photograph by Tamara Zakrshevskaya. With Alexander Pushkin (1907-1970), the Kirov’s great ballet teacher who inspired both Nureyev and Baryshnikov. Photograph by Tamara Zakrshevskaya, 1959.

Travel Document, issued Paris, 12 July 1963. Document ... sur la base duquel ... le present titre est délivré : Certificat de l’O.P.P.R.A. en date du 19. 6. 61, refugie d’origine Russe. Cover of the preceding. Pages 12 - 13 of the preceding, with stamps from November 1963 to May 1964.

Programme for Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Giselle, Wednesday, 21 February 1962. This was Nureyev’s first performance with Margot Fonteyn. Their legendary partnership was to last until 1979. Dame Margot’s death in 1993 occurred on the 29th anniversary of this historic first performance. Rehearsing Giselle with Margot Fonteyn, London, 1962. Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 21 February 1962 : cast for the performance of Giselle.

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Thursday, 24 October 1963, Nureyev’s first performance as Petrushka. Left to right: Wayne Sleep, Nureyev and Alexander Grant, all of whom danced Petrushka at Covent Garden. Royal Opera House Covent Garden, 24 October 1963, cast for Petrushka.

Royal Opera House Covent Garden, title page for the first performance of La Bayadère (The Kingdom of the Shades), Wednesday, 27 November 1963, revised and produced by Nureyev. The cast was led by Fonteyn and Nureyev as Nikiya and Solor. Nureyev’s staging of the full length La Bayadère for the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1992 was to be his final work and the premiere on 8 October his last appearance in public. Palais des Sports, Paris Opera Ballet, Manfred, ballet in four tableaux (Tchaikovsky/Nureyev), premièred 20 November 1979. Due to injury Nureyev did not appear in this major work until 15 December 1979. Photograph by Enid Theobald. Vienna State Opera Ballet, cast sheet for the première of the one-act Tancredi (Henze/Nureyev), 18 May 1966. This was Nureyev’s first original ballet.

Cap worn by Nureyev, familiar from numerous photographs. Private collection. Nureyev leaving the stage door of the London Coliseum after a performance in June 1981. Photograph by Mervyn Theobald. Ballet shoes worn by Nureyev, one signed in blue ink across the vamp. Private collection.

Ballet, issue 2 (82) 1996. Cover of the bi-monthly Russian dance magazine, featuring Nureyev conducting. He formed a collection of early instruments including harpsichords by Ruckers and Kirkman and pianos by Clementi and Pleyel. He was buried wearing his conductor’s tails.

Paris, 12 January 1993. Nureyev’s oak casket being carried from the Opéra after the memorial service. The ceremony had begun, at his request, with an extract from Bach’s ‘Art of Fugue.’  Photograph by Enid Theobald. Paris Opéra, Palais Garnier, Nureyev’s portrait surrounded by floral tributes, 12 January 1993. Photograph by Enid Theobald. Wreaths outside the Paris Opéra, 12 January 1993. Hours later his funeral took place at the Russian Cemetery, Sainte-Geneviève-des- Bois . As his coffin was lowered into the ground, a chamber ensemble played music from Giselle Act II. Photograph by Enid Theobald.

The strikingly beautiful memorial on Nureyev's grave was unveiled on 6th May 1996, in the Russian cemetery in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois. The mosaic memorial was designed and made by Ezio Frigerio, who had worked with Nureyev as set designer for his productions of Romeo & Juliet and La Bayadère. It represents a Kilim rug. Photograph by Jennie Walton.

Detail.


In compiling the above display the Museum has been grateful for generous assistance from Roberta Lazzarini, Tamara Zakrjevskaya, Valentina Mironova, Alla Osipenko, Alexander Ukladnikov, Enid & Mervyn Theobald and Brenda Hayward.

Click here for a link to the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation website.