11/6/15 O&A NYC Shall We Dance Friday: Le Jeune Homme et la Mort- Rudolf Nureyev or Mikhail Baryshnikov? You decide


Le Jeune Homme et la Mort (1946) choreography by Roland Petit, set to Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 582, with a one-act libretto by Jean Cocteau. The story of a young man driven to suicide by his faithless lover. Two of the most memorable interrupters of the male role (both stage and film) have been Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. 


With sets by Georges Wakhévitch and costumes by Karinska or Cocteau the duet has been in the repertoire of American Ballet Theatre (1951), the Paris Opera Ballet (1990), the Ballet National de Marseilles (1984), the Berlin Opera Ballet (1985), the Boston Ballet (1998), the Bolshoi Ballet (2009), and the Mariinsky Ballet (late 1990s, revival 2012).


Mikhail Baryshnikov revived Le Jeune Homme et la Mort for American Ballet Theatre in 1975. The work also appeared in the 1985 movie White Nights with restaging by Petit for Baryshnikov. The abridged movie version created a bravura opening scene for the film. White Nights stars Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gregory Hines, Jerzy Skolimowski, Helen Mirren and Isabella Rossellini.

Le Jeune Homme et la Mort- White Nights
Baryshnikov and Florence Faure as Death


In 1966 Petit filmed the ballet in France with Rudolf Nureyev and his wife Zizi Jeanmaire. Legend has it Petit created Le Jeune Homme et La Mort for Jeanmaire, but Jean Babilee and Nathalie Philippartat premiered the work on June 25, 1946  at the Ballets des Champs-Elysees. After a brief stint in Hollywood she returned to France and concentrated on ballet; producing more than 60 shows with Petit.

Le Jeune Homme et La Mort-  Nureyev/Jeanmaire

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