“The only critic is a full house”
In 1983 Nureyev was offered and accepted the position of ballet director at the Paris Opéra. Rudolf Nureyev, appointed by the Minister of Culture Jack Lang, took over as director of the Paris Opera Ballet in 1983. Nureyev, the Director, worked on extending the repertoire of the Ballet. He enriched earlier periods with revivals of the Baroque, pre-romantic era, and expanded later periods with orders for the young choreographers of contemporary ballet.
He improved working conditions for the dancers by having new studios built. He shook up the corps de ballet hierarchy by casting promising young dancers from the Company in soloist roles, and appointing five, twenty year old, principal dancers.
With good ballet staff he found he could deal by telephone with any problems in his absence, and of course the policies were his. Chief among them was widening the repertoire, both through his own productions and by bringing in an immense variety of ballets by leading choreographers and aspirants too in whom he saw talent. He wanted the dancers, like himself, to experience many styles: from the great classics (not previously well represented in Paris) and revivals or reconstructions of historic French works, to the best ballets of our time and many creations. Besides enlivening the company in this way, he stimulated the dancers by giving early opportunities to newcomers from the excellent attached school (which also benefited under him from new premises, while the company similarly gained new rehearsal studios).
More performances and increased touring were other benefits. The reactions expressed by French dancers to working with him are much like those recorded by the Royal Ballet’s David Wall to his experience when Nureyev arrived: “A tremendous inspiration …. he made the work so exciting and fulfilling …. He will always help any dancer who asks him, and I have a feeling that any problem I had, professionally, I could always go to him and get an honest answer.“
Rudolf Nureyev took the prestige of the Paris Opera onto international stages. He led the troupe to the United States for three years running in 1986, 1987, and 1988, after a French absence of more than thirty years. He had them take part in festivals in Venice, Vienna, and Athens as well as the Festival in Avignon. And above all, he maintained the company at its highest level.