John Cranko’s Onegin holds a special place in the choreographic repertoire of the second half of the 20th century as one of the few original full-length ballets. Based on Alexander Pushkin’s dramatic verse novel Eugen Onegin, the ballet tells the story of the arrogant and world weary aristocrat Onegin who rejects the love of the naive country girl Tatiana only to realize – upon meeting her again years later – that in her he threw away the only woman who ever truly loved him and who was ever worth loving. Tatiana, by now matured and married to Prince Gremin, must battle with her emotions when Onegin seeks her out to confess his love. In one of the most heart wrenching scenes in all of classical ballet, Tatiana rejects Onegin although she secretly still loves him.
John Cranko’s absolute mastery of the art of the pas de deux finds its climax in Onegin, where each of the three main encounters between Onegin and Tatiana is so skillfully crafted and so superbly nuanced that by the final scene, the audience finds itself hopelessly caught up in the protagonists’ emotional turmoil. Set to sweeping music by Pyotr I. Tchaikovsky (orchestrated by Kurt-Heinz Stolze), and with sets and costumes evoking 19th century Russia by Jürgen Rose, Onegin is a must for lovers of dramatic, full length ballets. With Onegin, John Cranko secured his place in the pantheon of great 20th century choreographers. He created the three act work for the Stuttgart Ballet – of which he was Director – in 1965 and revised the ballet two years later. Over the last 50 years, the ballet has entered the repertoire of almost every leading ballet company in the world, including the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet in London, the Bolshoi Ballet, the Ballet of the Teatro alla Scala, American Ballet Theatre, the National Ballet of China and the Universal Ballet in Seoul.
Friedemann Vogel and Alicia Amatriain – the leading couple of the Stuttgart Ballet who have been showered with international prizes and accolades – demonstrate here why they are deemed the elite of the dance world: As Onegin and Tatiana they masterfully portray the development of their individual characters from cold and arrogant to desperately passionate, from youthful and naive to the heart-rending, mature awareness of a love which can never be. Vogel is “the most elegant, most elegiac Onegin of all times” (Südwest Presse). They meet their matches in David Moore and Elisa Badenes who give an outstanding performance as Lensky and Olga. Jason Reilly impresses as majestic Prince Gremin, but it is Marcia Haydee who creates the night’s special magic: Once Cranko chose her to be the very first Tatiana, now she guest stars as nurse; the close bonds between Haydee and the ensemble are palpable throughout and it is a truly touching moment when the original Tatiana meets the current one. On the rostrum is the music director of the Stuttgart Ballet himself, James Tuggle. “And in the pit: boundless joy!” (Südwest Presse) “Onegin is so good, that it can easily hold its own against any Broadway show!” (Newsday).