Archive for the ‘Onegin’ Category

Onegin, with Reilly and Cojocaru, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, January 2013

24 January, 2013

This performance on January 23 showed an interesting difference of interpretation from the previous evening with a cast led by Bonelli and Morera. In her Act III pas-de-deux with Prince Gremin, Alina Cojocaru expressed a wistful sadness as she floated almost semi-consciously across the stage, quite different from Laura Morera’s joyful serenity in the same duet. Had she seen Onegin from the corner of her eye? These are two interpretations of the same role, both entirely valid.

Reilly and Cojocaru, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

Reilly and Cojocaru, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

Cojocaru was originally to have been dancing with Johan Kobborg, but due to injury, Jason Reilly from the Stuttgart Ballet took the role of Onegin. This is the company that originally facilitated John Cranko’s work in 1969, providing him with an excellent score by Kurt-Heinz Stolze, that uses music by Tchaikovsky, avoiding anything from his opera on the same story. Reilly showed a reserved aloofness and elegant stage-presence fitting the role like a glove. The way he smiled in Act I when he glanced at the book Tatiana was reading, and the way he placed his hand on her shoulder after tearing up her letter, displayed an effortless superiority that he only loses in Act III on encountering a more mature Tatiana with her husband.

Reilly as Onegin, Act II

Reilly as Onegin, Act II

In the meantime Cojocaru was walking on air in her first Act I pas-de-deux with him, and her duet with the imaginary Onegin in the letter scene was magical. So different from their final pas-de-deux in Act III when she showed herself to be in emotional agony, almost unable to tell him to leave her. Reilly himself was a terrific partner, so real in his emotional self-control.

Steven McRae as Lensky

Steven McRae as Lensky

By comparison of course, Lensky loses it, and Steven McRae expressed his angry determination to perfection. Before this his superb dancing thoroughly enlivened Act I, and the joyfulness of his dancing with the Olga of Akane Takada was palpable. There was an airy quality to their pas-de-deux, with her seeming as light as a feather, and his final landing as he drops to the stage at the end was done with consummate ease. In Act II Takada did a wonderful job of showing what a very silly girl Olga is, which in Pushkin’s original is the reason Onegin flirts with her, to show Lensky he is in love with an airhead. Takada, McRae and Cojocaru were excellent in their brief pas-de-trois before the duel, and McRae’s final solo was fabulous.

Bennet Gartside was a solid Prince Gremin, but one can see why Tatiana might feel a wistfulness that a more excitingly emotional life has passed her by, as Cojocaru expressed in Act III. She is exceptional in this role so see her if you can.

Once again Dominic Grier in the orchestra pit produced orchestral playing of very fine quality, and the charm and emotional grip of the score came over beautifully.

Performances with various casts continue until February 8 — for details click here.

Onegin, with Bonelli and Morera, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, January 2013

23 January, 2013

After John Cranko worked on the choreography for Tchaikovsky’s opera he wanted to turn the story into a ballet, which he later did in Stuttgart. Apparently he intended to use music from the opera, but the Stuttgart Ballet commissioned a score by Kurt-Heinz Stolze, using alternative music by Tchaikovsky. The resulting creation is rather different from the opera, which Covent Garden will perform in a couple of weeks’ time.

Morera and Bonelli/ Bill Cooper

Morera and Bonelli in Act I

Onegin here is a less nuanced character than the one based more firmly on Pushkin’s original in the opera. Here in the ballet he tears up Tatiana’s letter in Act II when she refuses to take it back, and his flirtation with Olga is cruel rather than showing her fiancé and his friend Lensky what a silly vacuous girl she is. But the choreography is glorious and the poetic justice of Tatiana tearing up Onegin’s letter at the end of Act III is very effective.

Within this context, Federico Bonelli gave a fine portrayal of Onegin, showing coolness rather than anger as he rips up the letter, and avoiding an excess of nastiness as he dances with Olga at the Act II party. The main character in the ballet however is Tatiana, and Laura Morera showed a lovely dreaminess in Act I particularly in her pas-de-deux with the imaginary Onegin who appears through the mirror, followed by emotional wildness in Act II after Onegin dances with Olga, and serenity in Act III as her pas-de-deux with her husband Prince Gremin flowed with life and joy. Gary Avis as Gremin was superb, his fine stage presence at the party turning to a beautiful expression of love for Tatiana in their duet together, and perplexed concern with what bothers her later in her boudoir. Bonelli, who has shown admirable angst at Gremin’s party when he realises who Gremin’s wife really is, then comes in to face Morera, and their pas-de-deux was quite rightly the high point of the evening. Finally she rejects him with a fine mixture of assertiveness and regret.

Morera and Bonelli in Act III, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

Morera and Bonelli in Act III, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

Avis, Morera, and Bonelli brought the performance to a glorious conclusion in Act III, while Yuhui Choe as Olga was sheer delight, and after an uncertain start in Act I, Nehemiah Kish as Lensky came into his own in Act II showing excellent anger and forcefulness in challenging Onegin to a duel.

Lovely work from the whole company, and Dominic Grier in the orchestra pit gave an excellent account of the score. The designs by Jürgen Rose, based on the Stuttgart Ballet originals from 1969 are wonderful, and I shall report again tomorrow after seeing a different cast this evening.

Performances with various casts continue until February 8 — for details click here.

Onegin, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, October 2010

8 October, 2010

This was a second view of John Cranko’s wonderful ballet during the present run, this time with an entirely different cast of principals: Federico Bonelli and Laura Morera as Onegin and Tatiana, Sergei Polunin and Melissa Hamilton as Lensky and Olga, and Gary Avis as Prince Gremin. For my previous review of the first night cast of Kobborg/ Cojacaru/ McRae/ Takada/ Gartside click here. Both casts were terrific — each in its own way unbeatable — but I’ll avoid comparisons and simply report on the present one.

At the beginning of Act I, Melissa Hamilton as Olga moved with wonderful grace, and she and Polunin seemed made for one another. Their joyful dancing together made Onegin’s attempt to break them apart all the more poignant, and Bonelli’s superb aloofness and disdain in the role of Onegin showed there was no question of his flirting with Olga just to teach Lensky how shallow she is. No, this was a devilish trick by a bored young man. His tearing up of Tatiana’s letter was a masterpiece of cool rudeness, and his pirouettes before the duel showed furious emotion.

Laura Morera as Tatiana showed great emotional sincerity, and her beautiful movements in the dream pas-de-deux of Act I made an enchanting impression, sadly spoiled by one audience member whose repeated emotional outbursts had nothing to do with the dancing. Fortunately there was nothing to spoil her final pas-de-deux with Onegin before she throws him out of her dressing room. Add to that a wonderful pas-de-deux at the ball with Gary Avis, and you have a remarkable performance of Tatiana’s role. Avis showed superb stage presence, as ever, and made an unbeatable Prince Gremin. His charming re-introduction of Onegin and Tatiana in Act III, before he sweeps her out of the room, was a masterpiece of skilful timing and savoir faire. The whole performance was excellent, but the main accolades must go to Bonelli and Morera who played their roles with consummate technique and musicality.

The music by Kurt-Heinz Stolze, based on Tchaikovsky, was well played by the orchestra under the baton of Barry Wordsworth, and five further performances are scheduled for October 9, 12, 13, 20, 25.

Onegin, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, September 2010

1 October, 2010

One loves while the other turns away — it can go in either direction, and here it goes in both.

Cojocaru and Kobborg in the final pas-de-deux

One way in Act I, and the reverse in Act III, where Tatiana finally turns away from Onegin, tearing up his letter, just as he originally tore up hers. This letter tearing is part of John Cranko’s adaptation of Pushkin’s original story, and works well as long as it’s not over-dramatised on stage. Here, Johan Kobborg and Alina Cojocaru effected these rejections superbly, and their dancing showed a subtle tension between them, without ever over-reaching into unnecessary pathos. The pas-de-deux of the dream sequence in Act I, when Tatiana writes her letter and falls asleep, was danced with magical abandon, and her balance was perfect as he turned away from her at the end. And their final pas-de-deux in Act III was a wonderful mixture of tension and romantic yearning.

Steven McRae was outstanding in Lensky’s solo before the duel, his lassitude creating a poignant image of a man who has taken a fatally wrong turning. And Akane Takada portrayed the pretty, but empty-headed Olga to perfection. She played well to Kobborg’s playfully haughty intervention in Act I, and he portrayed the presence and aloofness we expect of Onegin. Bennet Gartside was an admirable Prince Gremin, and a fine partner for Cojocaru in the ball scene of Act III — their pas-de-deux was beautifully done. The five principals were well supported by the corps, who were full of vivacity, and the girls’ jetés across the diagonal in Act I, supported by their partners, were executed with abundant joy and energy.

Alina Cojocaru and Bennet Gartside in the Act III ball scene

John Cranko’s choreography is a delight . . . creative, always appropriate to the drama, and this fine ballet is worth seeing again and again. The music by Kurt-Heinz Stolze — cleverly based on Tchaikovsky without taking anything from his opera on the same story — was conducted here by Valeriy Ovsyanikov. This was an excellent start to the season, and further performances are scheduled for October 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 20, 25 with four different casts, one of which I shall report on at the end of next week