The whispering in the corridors of La Scala has come to an end as, finally, it has been confirmed that Manuel Legris will take over from Frédéric Olivieri as Ballet Director.
Legris, currently in the same position in Vienna, will assume the role in Milan at the end of this year.
He already knows the company well, having worked with them on his own version of the ballet Sylvia (a co-production with the Vienna State Ballet) which opened the current ballet season at La Scala in December 2019.
Rumours have been circulating for almost a year, and as he is popular with the theatre's dancers, it will be a happy union. Legris shares much of the same DNA with the dancers at La Scala having danced a similar repertoire during his days as étoile at the Paris Opera Ballet, with Rudulf Nureyev's influence and productions having a significant effect on the dancer.
We wish him well. In bocca al lupo!
Manuel Legris was born in Paris and trained at the ballet school of the Paris Opéra. He joined the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1980. In 1986 he was appointed Danseur Étoile by then ballet director of the Paris Opéra, Rudolf Nureyev. In May 2009, he gave his farewell performance at the Paris Opéra and since September 2010 Manuel Legris has been Director of the Wiener Staatsballett and Artistic Director of the Ballet Academy of the Vienna State Opera.
Manuel Legris' repertoire at the Paris Opéra Ballet included the lead roles in works by Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, Patrice Bart, Maurice Béjart, Trisha Brown, August Bournonville, Vladimir Burmeister, John Cranko, Nacho Duato, Mats Ek, Mikhail Fokin, William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Pierre Lacotte, Harald Lander, Serge Lifar, Kenneth MacMillan, John Neumeier, Rudolf Nureyev, Roland Petit, Angelin Preljocaj, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, Antony Tudor, and Rudi van Dantzig.
In his first season as Director of the Wiener Staatsballett, Manuel Legris presented eight premieres, staging himself Rudolf Nureyev's version of Don Quixote. In his second season together with Elisabeth Plated he staged Pierre Lacotte's La Sylphide, in the season 2012/2013 he produced Rudolf Nureyev's The Nutcracker and in the 2013/2014 season Swan Lake. At the multi-part evening Junge Talente des Wiener Staatsballetts at the Volksoper Wien his choreography Donizetti Pas de deux was presented. In March 2016 he presented his very first full-lenght story ballet: his version of Le Corsaire at Wiener Staatsoper.
Prizes and Honours: 1st prize in the ballet competition in Osaka (1984), Prix Nijinsky (1988), Prix Benois de la Danse (1998) Nijinski Award (“Best Dancer in the World, 2000”), Prix Positano (2001); Chevalier des Arts et Lettres (1993), Officier des Arts et Lettres (1998), Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Mérite (2002), Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur (2006), Commandeur des Arts et Lettres (2009).
2016 he won the People's Choice Award for his gala performance as Ulrich in Roland Petits Die Fledermaus at the XV. DANCE OPEN International Ballet Festival at the Alexandrinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Manuel Legris was the choreographer of La Scala's 2018 production of Le Corsaire, when it was by Anna-Marie Homes, a production which Gramilano gave a rare 5-star review. Legris created a version of Le Corsaire for Vienna, and both productions (in Milan and Vienna) were designed by Luisa Spinatelli.
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.