Learn more about the set of La Bayadère

Rudolf Nureyev’s famous ballet, designed for the Paris Opera, is back on stage until May 6, 2022. On October 8, 1992, the ballet in 3 acts was created by Rudolf Nureyev on the stage of the Palais Garnier, with the precious help of Ninel Kourgapkina, who was his partner at the Kirov ballet, Patrice Bart, Patricia Ruanne and Aleth Francillon.

The first two acts were re-staged in their entirety by Rudolf Nureyev, inspired by the Kirov ballet version. But it is above all the last masterpiece of Rudolf Nureyev that this ballet represents. At the heart of his illness, and a few months before dying, the choreographer did not stop attending rehearsals until the premiere, on October 8, 1992 at the Palais Garnier. But beyond the choreography and staging, it is the sets and costumes that make this ballet one of the jewels of the Paris Opera repertoire.

The famous sets were created by the great Ezio Frigerio. Italian artistic director and costume designer knew how to bring Rudolf Nureyev’s vision to life. Fantastic elephants, lush jungles and majestic palaces are part of the fantastic setting of La Bayadère. Ezio Frigerio entered the world of ballet thanks to his friend Roland Petit, after having worked for many years on the sets of operas such as King Lear or Don Giovanni at La Scala in Milan. Through him, he finally meets Rudolf Nureyev and a great friendship will be born between them. Before creating the sets for La Bayadère, he was at the origin of those for Nureyev’s ballets La Belle au Bois Dormant and Roméo et Juliette. What makes Ezio Frigerio’s work so unique is his use of space, and especially “trompe l’oeil”, which creates perspective on the stage. Light is no exception: whether reflected off mirrors, or illuminating the scene through glass, it is used to create depth. He also uses architectural elements such as columns, which help transport the viewer into the action.

The costumes cannot be dissociated from the work of the sets. Imagined by his partner in life Franca Squarciapino. inspired by traditional Indian costumes and jewelry, they are considered to be among the most beautiful costumes created for the Paris Opera. Finally, after the death of Rudolf Nureyev, Ezio Frigerio was commissioned to design the work that will cover his tomb in the Russian cemetery of Saint Geneviève des Bois. Inspired by the Kilim rugs that Rudolf Nureyev loved so much, it will be unveiled on May 6, 1996. Ezio Frigerio left us in February 2022.

To find out more, discover the Nureyev Collection at the Center National du Costume de Scène. 20 years after the death of Rudolf Nureyev, Ezio Frigerio designed the scenography:


To learn more about La Bayadère by Rudolf Nureyev, (re)read our article on this iconic ballet: