Nicolas Le Riche


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At the heart of the OPERA DE PARIS universe, Etoile dancer NICOLAS LE RICHE talks about his passion, his experiences, his aspirations.
To celebrate our wonderfully bright galaxy, stage director THOMAS ADAM- GARNUNG unwinds an imaginary Ariadne’s thread between the romantic contemplation of stars, sometimes considered passageways to distant worlds, and the place of individuals in the celestial landscape.

Night before the stars

I was afraid of the dark, of blackness, of the shadows. I would go to bed in my childhood bedroom and would be afraid to disappear in the half-light. I asked for a light to be left on. You call them night-lights? They didn’t exist at the time. You used to leave the corridor light on. I would stay alone. I was in my childhood bed and looked fixedly at the light. I feared that it would be turned off, that I would be forgotten there, in the night of my childhood bedroom, in my single bed, under heavy bed covers, surrounded by my deaf and dumb stuffed animals, my lifeless toys. I feared being abandoned. It was always my biggest fear. And I feared the dark. In darkness, I was alone.

One day my cousin and I stayed late at the beach. We wanted to admire the sunset, until the end, until the moment it is consumed by the sea, after the explosion of colours, after the incandescence of the day. Then we decided to go home. Night caught up with us. Night cloaked us in darkness, as they say. In my silence my cousin heard my fear, a rising, terrifying fear. We had to walk across the beach, then across the road, then the forest and then, perhaps, on the other side, reach the house. The distance, in this night growing more and more opaque, seemed to increase with every step we took. As we got closer, I felt the distance push me farther away. The sea had swallowed the sun and night seemed to want to do the same with us. In the depth of the night we wouldn’t last long, I knew it, I knew that kind of thing.

My cousin hastened his pace. My cousin knew that I may want to stop. It wasn’t time to stop. Not the right time to risk being paralysed. Not here. Not in the middle of nowhere. We are always in the middle of nowhere. But I didn’t know that yet. He was talking about the beach, saying how beautiful the castle I had built in the sand was, a monument, a cathedral. Saying the waves had probably swallowed it, but with care, with deference, to salute my genius, my perfect mastering of architecture and of the elements. I didn’t answer. I knew it was all a diversion. I walked. One step and then another. But the pace was slackening. When suddenly, a glade opened up the forest before us. The opening was on our path. It was there. I was petrified. To cross that empty space and leave behind the sounds of the dark forest seemed to me an insurmountable peril. My cousin took my hand and led me into the clearing. A noise in the sky. My eyes look up. And I see the night sky. The stars. A constellation of stars in the sky. Surprise, astonishment, amazement.  This is stellar.

This is flabbergasting. It wasn’t the first time. You never remember the first time. We rewrite a story. We reinvent our first times. And the first time, the very first time, you’ve forgotten it.

However this was the first time I noticed the stars, the first time their presence had a meaning for me. My cousin decided to halt and to sit down, just like that, in the middle of the clearing and to look at all the stars. And then I understood that night was the conditions for stars, that sometimes light dazzles us and makes it impossible for us to see the tinier, softer things, infinitely more rich in their diversity, their colour, their shape, and that the sun, this too near star, imposes its law and pitilessly burns everything, leaving only desert.

My cousin talked. At least I think he was talking, he was saying things. I don’t remember. I was filled with wonder and didn’t listen. Everything seemed to make sense. And night wasn’t going to scare me anymore. I was to thank the night.

Because you see, there were stars in the sky. Night isn’t so dark. Night isn’t so opaque. Night sparkles. With a thousand lights. With a thousand stars that are like a map. We cannot reach them, they hold us at a distance, but they show us the way. They guide us. Just as they guided sailors who traveled beyond the limits of the world, farther and farther away, and guided them back home, to their wives and children. Just as they helped astrologists know when the time was right for harvest, for a wedding to be blessed, a birth welcome. The silent, inaccessible stars, who are as many signals that we are not alone, lost in a cold and empty universe. These stars who witness the chain reactions that create life, the scattered explosions. Stars that are brilliant points and tell us everything we can be, who dress up our dreams, who outline an infinite beauty that we can only see, never touch, that we can only imagine and never equal.

In a snap, I think I understood all that. All of a sudden, as they say. The notion hit the mark. I was only a fly in the universe, but suddenly I wanted to be a star. I had my place in the great universal order. My stars, in the summer sky, in the midst of the dark forest filled with sounds, formed a map, traced a path, gave a sense. We went home. Everything was calm. And never again, as I lay curled up in my little bed before going to sleep, did I ask for a light to be left on. I wasn’t alone anymore. Above my head, all those benevolent starry gazes.

Thomas Adam Arnung translator Delphine Dalquié

Nicolas Le Riche
"The Afternoon of a Faun"


Nicolas Le Riche
Interview & images Sabine Morandini & Lisa Shelley


Place de l'Opéra
Paris 75009