2018 marks 80 years since Rudolf Nureyev was born and 25 since he died. La Scala in Milan have marked the occasion with a series of Gala celebrations and performances of his Don Quixote, Manuel Legris organised a celebration with the Vienna State Ballet, and many more tributes have been staged to doff a hat to the transfixing force of nature that was Nureyev.
At 9.15pm today, Daniele Cipriani Entertainment will stage another homage at enchanting Teatro Romano amphitheatre in Spoleto for the I Love Spoleto series of summer events.
An impressive line-up for this one-night-only performance includes dancers from the Mariinsky Ballet (the Kirov when Nureyev was there before defecting to the West in 1961). Xander Parish, Maria Khoreva, Anastasia Nuikina and Daria Ionova will dance George Balanchine's Apollo as well as a pas de deux from Frederick Ashton's Marguerite and Armand which was created for Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn. Ashton, who was initially reluctant about including the Russian in his project conceived for Fonteyn, was won over, saying,
There was a sort of animality, a physical intensity and a sexual impulse that charged the atmosphere with electricity.
Le Jeune Homme et la mort by Roland Petit, and remounted by Luigi Bonino, will be performed by Baktiyar Adamzhan from Kazakhstan's Astana Ballet and Nicoletta Manni, Principal Dancer at La Scala.
Diane Solway wrote,
Le Jeune homme et la mort was one of the first dance films staged for the camera and not simply a filmed stage performance. Roland Petit directed it after working on a number of movies in Hollywood. Thinking that Rudolf had ‘the face of a movie star', Petit edited the film to make ample use of close-ups. ‘I would tell him how photogenic he was and remind him to put on some lipstick before we shot, saying he was like Marilyn Monroe, because he would take the light like her. And he was so happy…
Oleg Rogachev and Marc-Emmanuel Zanoli from the Opéra National de Bordeaux will dance Maurice Béjart's Le Chant du compagnon errant from 1971 which Nureyev danced with La Scala's Paolo Bortoluzzi.
After personal triumphs at La Scala by Martina Arduino and Mattia Semperboni in Le Corsaire, the two will be performing the pas de deux, though at La Scala, which was dancing the Anna-Marie Holmes version, it was a pas de trois.
The 20-year-old Nureyev danced the pas de deux from Le Corsaire at the national ballet school contest in Moscow in 1958, which concluded his studies at the Kirov Ballet School.
He received a standing ovation for his variation:
For the first time in my life the public demanded an encore. It was for the pas de deux from Le Corsaire. I danced it again and the applause was even stronger than the first time. It was exhilarating.
In the West it became his calling card and in 1963 it was filmed with Margot Fonteyn as his partner.
Arduino and Semperboni will also dance the white swan pas de deux from Swan Lake.
The Gala, which celebrates Nureyev's repertoire rather than his choreography, will also feature the last act pas de deux from Don Quixote danced by Adamzhan with Russian ballerina Tatiana Melnik, Principal Dancer at the Hungarian State Ballet.
Video artist Massimiliano Siccardi has mounted a tribute to Nureyev, celebrating some of the close ties he had with Italy. Apart from owning an island, Li Galli, just off the Positano coast, he was a fixture at La Scala, danced many times in Rome, and at Spoleto appeared twice: in 1964 with Fonteyn in his version of Raymonda, and in 1984 with Sylvie Guillem in a pas de deux from Apollo.
The producer Cipriani says,
Yes, Rudolf Nureyev lives. His strong presence still lingers in the world of dance, and he is the guardian of what I do. In July 2013 I mounted my first Tribute to Rudolf Nureyev at the Parco della Musica in Rome for the twentieth anniversary of his death. And I'm most proud of is Apollonian and Dionysian which is the only dance event ever held on the island Li Galli, which belonged to Nureyev. Aside from the shows specifically related to him, for those like me who organise and produce dance events, Rudolf Nureyev is the inspiration to always seek excellence and offer it to the public.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.