Twenty years after his death, Rudolf Nureyev’s legacy still lights up the world of ballet as brilliantly as the flamboyant performances which once illuminated the greatest stages.
“As long as they are putting on my ballets, I will live on,” Brigitte Lefevre, dance director of the Paris Opera, recalls Nureyev saying in the years before the ravages of AIDS finally claimed him, aged 54, on January 6, 1993.
A fitting epitaph for a performer who went from being the outstanding male dancer of his generation to a choreographer whose influence resonates throughout modern ballet.
The Paris Opera hosts a gala night on Sunday, with his “Sleeping Beauty” running as part of its 2013/2014 season and his “Nutcracker” in 2014/2015.
London’s Royal Ballet this month stages Nureyev’s “Raymonda”, followed next month by “Marguerite and Armand”, while the Vienna Opera ballet plans a Nureyev gala on June 29 and San Francisco’s De Young Museum is showcasing his stage costumes until February.
And come September, the Kremlin ballet will perform his “Cinderella” — a milestone for Russia, where authorities stung by his defection blacked out all information about him even as his international career soared.
A posthumous homecoming for Nureyev, who had returned to his native land after 26 years in exile, only to find his ailing mother did not recognize him, and the Russian public knew nothing of his stellar rise.
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Photo: Nureyev in his Paris apartment.