Do you have a favorite ballet? I believe I just found mine. It’s John Cranko’s ONEGIN which comes back to Boston Ballet after 14 years (February 25 – March 6 in Boston Opera House). Cranko’s passionate ballet is based on the famous novel in verses by Alexander Pushkin “Eugene Onegin”, set in 19th century Russia.
Having memorized Tatiana’s Letter to Onegin as every Soviet school girl in the 80-s (the boys memorized Onegin’s Letter to Tatiana), I do have a strong connection to Pushkin’s story. But as far as the preferences of the Boston ballet goers, I am not unique. According to Boston Ballet’s artistic director Mikko Nissinen, “It’s probably the most requested ballet by our audience members”.
While Pushkin’s original narrative poem is thematically multi-layered, Onegin the ballet focuses on the timeless story of unrequited love and (years later) regret between the romantic country girl Tatiana and cynical city dandy Onegin. These are some of the most sought after balletic roles requiring not only superb dancing skills but precise dramatic abilities. Onegin is staged as traditional classical ballet yet it displays a lot of innovative choreography (at times even acrobatic; and there is one particular lift that may … puzzle you) . There is also plenty of delightful Russian folk dancing.
On the opening night I was accompanied by my (American born) teenage son. He memorized his own share of Pushkin’s stanzas in his Russian literature class, but noted that “you would still enjoy the performance even if you were not familiar with the story” (may I add, it never hurts to read the synopsis). He thought the production in general did “a spectacular job converting a story into ballet; and whatever “limitations” there were they had to do with the genre not the performance”.
While my son’s attention was understandably drawn to portrayal of Onegin, my eyes were on Tatiana at all times. Petra Conti (formerly of Milan’s La Scala Ballet) opened as Tatiana on Thursday February 25 (Lasha Khozashvili as Onegin) (full casting here). I was absolutely taken by her delicate, sensual dancing exposing Tatiana’s virgin heart to the core.
“I write to you — no more confession is needed, nothing’s left to tell” – from Tatiana’s letter to Onegin. Written in Russian on the curtain.
Petra’s Tatiana is visibly transformed into a more confident “society dame” in the 3rd act, yet the passions galore and you will probably leave the theater teary-eyed (I did).
“I love you […] but I’ve become another’s wife — and I’ll be true to him, for life.’ (Translation by Charles Johnston, there are in fact over 40 translations of Pushkin’s novel around, including the one by V. Nabokov.)
Three act ballet by John Cranko originally premiered in 1965 by Stuttgart Ballet whose Artistic Director Reid Anderson is supervising current Boston Ballet production (he also supervised the prior Boston Ballet’s stagings of Onegin in 1994, 1997 and 2002). Elegant production set is on loan from the Dutch National Ballet. The music of P.I. Tchaikovsky was arranged and orchestrated for Cranko’s ballet by K.H. Stolze (you may recognize the fragments from The Seasons).
Tickets start at $35. For more information, visit Boston Ballet’s website or call 617-695-6955.
Performance is 2 hours and 15 minutes including 2 intermissions. All performances are in the Boston Opera House at 539 Washington Street, Boston. You may also try discounted tickets via bostix.org.
Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 1:00 pm
Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, February 28, 2016 at 1:00 pm*
Thursday, March 3, 2016 at 7:30 pm
Friday, March 4, 2016 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 1:00 pm
Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, March 6, 2016 at 1:00 pm
* Join Boston Ballet’s artistic staff and dancers for a discussion immediately following Sunday February 28 performance (free for Sunday performance ticket holders).