John Cranko became acquainted with Alexander Pushkin's verse-novel Eugene Onegin when he choreographed the dances for Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's opera of the same name in 1952. He created his own distinctive version of Pushkin's work in 1965 for the Stuttgart Ballet. Onegin displays all of Cranko's genius as a narrative choreographer, featuring finely drawn characters who are transformed by the conflicts they face.
Onegin and Tatiana's relationship is depicted in intense duets, such as the letter-writing scene when the youthful Tatiana dances a dream pas de deux with her longed-for lover. The role of Tatiana offers a ballerina many challenges – the development of a bookish country girl into a sophisticated woman at the pinnacle of St Petersburg society requires dramatic sensibility and technical finesse. Kurt-Heinz Stolze, Kapellmeister for Stuttgart Ballet, created for Cranko a soaring arrangement of music by Tchaikovsky, not from the opera but drawing principally on his works for piano.
As Olga and Lensky, the unfeasibly beautiful pair of Matthew Ball and Francesca Hayward were mutual devotion incarnate, a couple with nothing wanting and everything to lose. His portrayal of love corroding into wounded pride and fury was handled flawlessly; she, meanwhile, seems to be made of a lighter, stronger, more elastic substance than other dancers are, allowing her body to articulate emotion as if it were speech. -The Telegraph
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky
As for Osipova, good grief… this most mercurial and unpredictable of principals here attuned every last synapse and sinew to Tatiana's (by turns) shyness, sisterly affection, romantic infatuation and multifaceted desolation. The Russian is 33 and currently not quite as toned as usual, and superficially her Tatiana looks more disappointed housewife than tormented teenager. But she delivered a performance of perfect artistic judgment, complete emotional generosity and unflinching physical fearlessness, and was so spent by the curtain call that it was as much as she could do to lift her face towards the audience. – The Telegraph
Clarke's Onegin is powerfully danced, with a distinctive sense of character. A tall dancer, he has a gift for using his height on stage. Condescending to the provincial gentry, he looks about eight feet tall, but in St Petersburg, he no longer looms. He abases himself before Tatiana, literally and emotionally. – The Independent
Gary Avis is tender and thoughtful as Tatiana's husband, Prince Gremin. – The Independent
OPENING NIGHT CAST
Tatiana: Natalia Osipova
Eugene Onegin: Reece Clarke
Olga: Francesca Hayward
Lensky: Matthew Ball
Prince Gremin: Gary Avis
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.