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Romance En Pointe from the Royal Ballet with Onegin.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Royal Ballet revives Onegin choreographed by John Cranko, a work which was created for the Stuttgart Ballet in 1965 and first performed at the Royal Opera House in 2001. Cranko was the director of the Stuttgart Ballet when he created Onegin, a full length ‘story ballet’. It’s an achingly romantic tale, of the young Tatiana and her unrequited love for Yevgeniy Onegin. He ignores her and instead flirts with her younger sister, Olga who is engaged to his best friend Lensky. The resulting duel ends in Lensky’s death and Onegin flees the scene.
Some years later, he returns to St Petersburg to find Tatiana all grown up, elegant, beautiful – and married. Her spurned passion is turned on its head when Onegin falls deeply in love with her. Despite still loving Onegin, in the final scene, duty overcomes love leaving Onegin alone.
Based on Alexander Pushkin’s verse novel, Yevgeniy Onegin was the inspiration for an opera by Tchaikovsky and later for the ballet. It was while Cranko was choreographing the dances for the opera in 1952 that John Cranko first became acquainted with the work. The music was created for the ballet principally from Tchaikovsky’s piano works, arranged for Cranko by Kurt-Heinz Stolze, the Kapellmeister for Stuttgart Ballet.
Much of the choreography was innovative at the time. Tatiana is first seen lying on her stomach reading a book while when Onegin makes his first entry it is with his back to the audience. It’s a ballet where characterisation is crucial and the dancers captivate us by drawing us into the story.
Natalia Osipova as Tatiana was convincing both as a young, bookish country ingénue, so enthralled by Onegin that she manages to imagine him appearing from her bedroom mirror to dance with her, and as a content wife, married to Prince Gremin (Gary Avis). Onegin was played by Reece Clarke who made an admirable and impressive role debut as the aloof and arrogant protagonist, with some stunning dancing in both the mirror pas de deux and in the final pas de deux. The mirror motif used here is intended to take us from reality to the fantasy world of Tatiana’s mind. Dancing of the pas de deux itself evolved from an apparently hesitant pairing of Clark and Osipova to some strikingly athletic lifts and an empathetic partnership.
Francesca Hayward, making a role debut as Olga was flirtatious and charming, partnered with Matthew Ball as Lensky, the pair were enthralling and captivating to watch.
I was suitably impressed by the corp too, for seamless integration with the soloists and elegant, tidy dancing interspersed with some truly delightful moments.
Elegant designs from Jürgen Rose take us convincingly from a Russian country house to the St Petersburg Palace of Prince Gremin, complete with massive chandeliers, luscious drapes and gilded walls.
While the music lacks the truly memorable moments of an original work by Tchaikovsky, it provided a perfect counter for the ballet, with the orchestra conducted by Valery Ovsyanikov performing impeccably.
Not surprisingly with such a quartet of exemplary performances, endless curtain calls were needed to satisfy the enthusiasm of an exuberant and passionate audience.
Such an achingly romantic story seems to me to be perfectly scheduled for a Valentine’s Day treat. I wonder if I can find someone to take me for a second viewing.
Royal Opera House
Bow Street, London,
18 January–29 February 2020
Evening Performances at 21, 24 January, 7,8,12,21,22,24,27,20 February at 7.30pm 18 January, 22 February at 7pm
Matinee Performance 18 January at 1.30pm
Tickets £5 – £110 Royal Opera House Box Office www.roh.org.uk +44 (0)20 7304 4000