Onegin - revisited - Mar 22nd, 2017
Wiener Staatsballet, March 22nd, 2017: Onegin
For me Onegin is and always will be on the most sensitive works ever made for the ballet. It may sound ridiculous – due to the fact that it is based on Pushkin’s lyrical work – but it is pure poetry. Poetry perfectly translated into ballet by John Cranko, for me until today one of the great genius of last century’s ballet – his work will live forever: I always begin to admire immensely his “pas de deux solutions” and group scenes all over again, as if I had never seen them before. And the way the characters are “built” into dance and into the story-telling… more to that a little bit later.
I was very pleased with the Corps-de-Ballet. Last time I had seen this production I thought that a lot of the precision Cranko put in his work was missing: directions, heads and – mostly – arms… But yesterday’s performance showed that the company has been working very hard on “style precision”. And that made me glad! Very glad indeed! So many new faces in the company, which I am not able to distinguish from each other or, better put it this way, faces to which I cannot yet add a name. I have to write about the ones nobody ever writes about – I have space enough, here on line – and I do not have to reduce my reviews Wonderful work by Elena Bottaro (always a joy to look at!), Suzan Opperman, Céline Janou Weder (such “pros”) and Alaia Rogers (who gave us a beautiful and precise “mirror reflection” of Tatjana – showing through her face all the thoughts, doubts and feelings of the main character!). The same applies to the boys – growing very strongly as a group, in complete “unison” with each other: I have the feeling that between male dancers there are not so many “new faces” and I’d like to mention the names on which an audience can always “rely on” (and put “their feet up and relax because of the good work): Marat Davletshin, Marcin Demp, Alexis Forabosco (that will dance Gremin soon… I guess I’ll have to return to the Opera sooner than I thought!), Igor Milos, Tristan Ridel, James Stephens, Dumitru Taran, Zsolt Törok, Jaimy van Overeem and Géraud Wielick. Dancers you really rely on. I do not remember – in all years, decades in fact, following Ballet here in Vienna – to have witnessed a moment in which the male dancers from the Corps-de-Ballet (many half soloists within the names I have mentioned) were so strong together. I like that!
Nikisha Fogo, giving her début as Olga, gave a good performance – even though she must have been a bit nervous. Just as the curtain opened I felt that she “had the role” under control: The scene in which she is doing some embroidery with her mother and foster mother. She was not doing affectated movements as a dancer but really putting her strength in the fun of the movement without “pretending”. She really was doing her embroidery. Her pas de deux with Lenski was the first “catchy” moment of the evening. Davide Dato who hasn’t stopped delighting his audiences – since 6 years (I just found a review that I wrote 5 years ago, in which I said “I am sure that we will be hearing from Mr. Dato very much in the future – I could not have been more right!) is at top form. But I always say this and he always gives performances that are “a notch above”. Always “surpassing” the last performance. A gifted dancer and a very good actor. His Lenski is complete – down to last details!
For me the biggest “gift” of the evening was Alexandru (Sascha) Tcacenco as Gremin. I had never seen a Gremin that possessed such firmness and determination like his portrayal of the role. Dogmatic. Strong. After “decades” of watching Onegin I, at last, understood why Tatjana was so determined in the last scene on sending Onegin away from her chambers. At last I understood the “bridge” that Cranko has thought of… the country girl that became the wife of an aristocrat learned also to “command” – like in the army… That is what I meant about at the beginning of this review. The line of story-telling and the way Cranko built his characters. But this was only possible because of Mr. Tcacenco’s performance. A dancer not only with a great stage presence but also with a great “insight” about the characters he’s playing.
Maria Yakovleva and Roman Lazik made me cry.
Miss Yakovleva, looking beautifully frail, perhaps in the best role I have ever seen her in, gave us a sensitive portrayal of “haunted” Tatjana – down to the last details. Normal audiences will not pay much attention to that – because these are no moments of “bravura” (and circus) onstage but, for example, her first “soliloquy” (bedroom scene) was a moment of pure art. The way she lies and moves in bed and then pretends to sleep while her foster mother enters the room, just to stand up a bit later to write on her desk… her thoughts and doubts and wishes symbolized by the mirror and the entrance of Onegin himself, in her dream. Miss Yakovleva delighted the audience – made us sometimes laugh and then cry… Her interpretation reminded me a lot of the character study that Marcia Haydée (the original Tatjana) did for her work. Insight. As a dancer and actress… In fact, technique is not all, and those moments, in which the audience is simply “hypnotized” by such a touching performance are more worth than a trunk filled with diamonds and pearls.
Mr. Lazik – in the role of his life… that was my impression – and what else could I add to that? He knows all the dark sides of this character – but also, like he showed in the first act, his “dandy”, bored side… He turned Onegin, who in Russian literature would influence so many other Russian literary characters, into a person. Flesh and blood. Onegin is a ballet that is not only perfect for him as a character but that also emphasizes his technique and his physique – long legs and arms. A pure joy for Balletomanes – although sad, very sad: think about this quote that Pushkin wrote about Onegin's character: ““..depression still kept guard on him, and chased after him like a shadow - or like a faithful wife.”
Onegin is a very “round” piece – a form I simply love – precise and compact. There are no “wasted moments”.
Thank you, John Cranko!