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#1 sylphide

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Posted 17 November 2003 - 07:10 AM

I will be seeing the NBoC's Onegin on opening night with very good seatings.
I think I should be honest and admit that my 2 favorite companies in the world are the Paris Opera Ballet and the Kirov Ballet and will unfortunatedly have a tendency to subconsciously have higher expectations when I will be watching the performers this Saturday.
I just love the story of Onegin and am a big fan of A. Pushkin's work. So my question is, What is in your opinion the major strengths of the NBoC , so I can look for their most positive assests during the show.

thanks

#2 dancemomCA

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Posted 23 November 2003 - 07:25 AM

NB will be techncially sound, with strong female corps. I was not overly impressed with male corps in Swan Lake last year, Guilliame Cote was strong and theatrical. Heather Ogden didn't sell the entire package, she has lovely technique, but young and I think will be a stronger emotional actor with maturity.

Do you know the cast for that evening's performance? Is Rex Harrington dancing that night? He will be one to watch even though he is dancing in his final professional year. I still get chills watching him. There was an article in weekends' Globe and Mail about his upcoming retirement. Very sad to read of the disentegration of his family and the fact that he has almost no contact with any of his family since a student at the NBS. This is somewhat off topic, but I am hoping to see Onegin in Ottawa.

Please post your ballet thoughts following the performance!

#3 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 23 November 2003 - 07:57 AM

Sylphide - try and look at both the company and the story on its own terms -I'm not saying this as a cut but "Onegin" the ballet is barely Pushkin and NBoC isn't POB or the Mariinsky - but I still enjoy their performances. Harrington is good in Edwin Booth type roles (anything where he gets to chew the scenery) and he can fill a stage and partner with the best of them. If you're seeing Martine Lamy at all, in the right role, she's quite wonderful. (The right role for her last year was Napoli. She danced the biggest part in the pas de six and was marvelous in a role that was softer and less linear.)

Go and enjoy!

#4 Paquita

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Posted 23 November 2003 - 08:12 AM

Hi Sylphide! I'm sorry I didn't reply to your message earlier, but I thought your question was a difficult one to answer and that maybe it would be best for you to just see it without anyone else's opinions clouding your judgement. The NBoC has many strengths, and they are particularly strong in this work, which has been in the repertoire for roughly 2 decades. But there aren't really specific things that I or anyone else could really tell you to look for. The NBoC may not be on the same level as POB or the Kirov (this would certainly be evident if one was to compare their Swan Lakes or Sleeping Beauties), but I must say, and I hope you agree, that they do a wonderful Onegin!

I was at yesterday's opening night performance, and what a night it was! The first time I saw Onegin was 3 years ago (Aleksandar Antonijevic and Chan Hon Goh), and I absolutely fell in love with the story and the ballet as a whole. Cranko conveys the emotions of the characters so clearly in this work, and it is one of my favourite ballets. Since then, I have also read the novel and it really is beautiful.

Last night was especially moving as it was part of the celebration of Rex Harrington's 20 years with the NBoC. I didn't have the chance to see his earlier Onegins, but his intelligent and nuanced performance show that this is a role that he has grown with. He manages to make the audience utterly despise him when he heartlessly tears up Tatiana's letter in front of her, yet somehow transforms the character so that in the end we feel sympathy towards Onegin and his emptiness as he realizes the magnitude of his mistake. In the first act, his self-absorbed Onegin is consumed by his ennui, seeking diversion in the country. But Harrington also communicates a sort of melancholy beneath Onegin's cool demeanor.

This touch of human vulnerability is best displayed in the duel scene. Onegin is all calm and collected (at least on the outside), while every part of Lensky is trembling. When Onegin kills his friend, his horror with his deed is strongly felt. Of course, in the scene just prior to this (Tatiana's birthday) we see Onegin's impulsive and vindictive side as he flirts with Olga, purposely provoking Lensky. He skillfully and tauntingly weaves in and out of the couples, much to Olga's delight and Lensky's distress. Act 2 gave Aleksandar Antonijevic (Lensky) an opportunity to show some of his finest acting, especially leading up to the duel. The mood of his variation was one of tragic disillusionment.

In the final act, there is almost too much great acting on stage to watch it all. Here, Gremin (Ryan Boorne) and Tatiana (Xiao Nan Yu) dance a very formal pdd that seems fitting for their love which is honourable but not passionate. Still, Tatiana appears very content, and Gremin treats her well. Then we see Onegin pacing in the background, confused and full of regret. It is painful for him to watch them dance. When Gremin introduces them, Tatiana's reaction is extremely moving. She recognizes Onegin right away, and remembers everything he once meant to her. For one moment, she breaks from her formal and proper bearing, looking at Onegin in disbelief. But she quickly composes herself, as she is no longer that naive girl uncontrolably infatuated with him.

The final pdd, when performed well, is the kind of moment that brings tears to audience members' eyes. Harrington an Yu danced it with the most sincere and heartfelt emotions, holding nothing back. The parallels of Tatiana's inward struggle and Onegin's torment, more outwardly expressed, were deeply affecting. It is here that both characters have matured and fully realize the compexity of their relationship. This is where we see Harrington's dramatic ability at its fullest, and Onegin's character at its most multifaceted. One of the most touching moments in the pdd is when Tatiana has stopped resisting him, and they dance together freely (some steps mimic those of the mirror pdd- Tatiana's fantasy finally being realized). Onegin thinks he has won her heart, and extends his hand towards her. But that is when Tatiana knows that it can't be, and she tears up his letter, ordering him to leave and not bearing to look at him in case she changes her mind.

It was just magnificent. I can see why there was such a buzz around Yu when she made her debut as Tatiana 3 years ago, then just a corps member. Just as Onegin is a signature role for Rex (In Act 1 he is pure magnetism, and it is easy to believe why Tatiana would fall for him!), I think that this will become one of Yu's. It is definately the role that propelled her meteoric rise to principal, and it is one that allows her talents (both dramatic and technical) to shine. Her Tatiana undergoes a full evolution, without skipping a single phase. Furthermore, her portrayal is utterly believable. I just hope that she will be able to find a good parter in the future.

Antonijevic and Sonia Rodriguez (her first appearance since giving birth) were perfectly matched as Lensky and Olga, and both displayed some excellent dancing, especially in the first act pdd. The corps gave a fine performance with the slight exception of a few new members who were just a bit out of sync. It may have been Rex's night, but the entire cast was very strong and made yesterday's show a complete performance. During the final bow, Kudelka, Magdelena Popa (ballet mistress), and Karen Kain each presented Rex with flowers. It was most definately a night to remember!
I would love to hear your thoughts, or those of anyone else that was there!

#5 Giannina

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Posted 23 November 2003 - 09:13 AM

Paquita, that was a great synopsis of the ballet's story. I love this ballet as much as I loathe the character Onegin. For that reason I have always found the final pdd uncomfortable. I can never feel sorry for Onegin, which ruins the basis for the pdd, so I have to watch it merely for balletic content. The closest I came to sympathy for Onegin was in Royal Ballet's Nathan Coppen's offering, and I think that had more to do with the fact that he was so darn handsome than anything else.

Sylphide, I hope you have a wonderful evening. This ballet offers 5 major roles and a chance to see some wonderful dancing.

Giannina

#6 sylphide

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Posted 25 November 2003 - 11:32 PM

I must say I was very pleased with the National Ballet's performance on Saturday. Paquita, you made a very good review of the performance and I pretty much agree with what you have said. I also particularily loved the costumes and the set: the way all colors matched was extremely pleasing to the eyes. I really had a feeling of watching an "alive" painting.

Overall: clean and neat, very adequate dancing.
I must admitt that the end of performance aplause was quite moving and there were a lot of people crying around me, since it was Mr. Harrington last season.

#7 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 30 November 2003 - 06:40 AM

I saw last night and will go again this matinee.

I admit, I was totally gobsmacked. The Onegin's I've seen I've loathed, and all my Canadian friends swear by the ballet. After last night's performance, I still don't know if it's a great ballet, but I saw a great performance.

Nikolaj Hubbe takes a very interesting approach to the role; his Onegin isn't so much bored or cruel as self-loathing and even more, self-destructive. A telling moment was right before his entrance in Act II; it looked from the way he was walking and controlling himself like his Onegin needed a stiff drink to hold himself together before going out in public. When he flirted with Olga, he did it maniacally, but he looked at Lensky at certain moments in the choreography as if to beg him to finally stop it; it was as if he could not control his own behavior. He did Onegin like a dog that wanted to be shot.

As good as Hubbe was (and he was very very good) Martine Lamy was even better. It was a mature, honest and profoundly moving portrayal. She had no real tricks up her sleeve, she's not the physical "type" for the role; and she makes up for all of it by simply believing in every step. Dramatically, she didn't put a foot wrong. Because she's robust (she isn't big, she's just not a waif) she plays her Tatiana as passionate and strong willed. It works, you can see her simple certainty before Onegin rips up the letter; she has no idea that he couldn't love her. And when he does, you see a young woman have her illusions destroyed, but not about Onegin, about herself. Their act III pas de deux was a marvel of acting in Hubbe's shame and hysteria and Lamy's desire and pain. And amazingly, it never looked contrived.

The audience rose immediately at the end. They both heartily deserved the applause.

I'm on assignment, so should be brief, but I know other BalletTalkers were there. Yooooohoooo. . .

#8 Paquita

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Posted 30 November 2003 - 08:52 AM

I went to see Onegin again last night. It was another knock-out performance. Having just seen it last week, it has really grown on me. This time, it flew by, each act seemed like 15 mins. I didn't want it to end! I was just thinking about how most of my favourite ballets are very technical (Bayadere, Swan Lake) or pure dance with little narrative (Apollo, Serenade). Onegin relies much more on dramatic ability than sound technique (although some of the variations are very difficult as well as the main pdds), or rather it requires dramatic ability through technique. There is less pure dance in this ballet, but Cranko makes the dances matter. With each pdd and variation, we see relationships evolving, as in the final act when Onegin watches Tatiana and Gremin's romantic pdd or Tatiana's heartbroken act 2 solo- she grand jetes towards Onegin at the end, and he slams his hand down on the table, too consumed by self-loathing to be able to bear the recognition of her love.
On Lamy and Hubbe's performance, I agree with Leigh. Hubbe was a fascinating Onegin, and it's a treat for Torontonians to be able to see him. I'm surprised at the lack of press coverage concerning his performances, as NBoC has not had a big guest artist since Robert Tewsley in Manon. Hubbe's interpretation is much more introverted and restrained than Rex's. While Rex enters the party in act 2 with a yawn, making no effort to conceal his utter boredom, Hubbe is tortured by an inward struggle with himself.
This struggle slowly deveops, building up to the climactic act 3 pdd- which for me, was hands down the highlight of the entire evening. Everything just burst out of him (for lack of better words), neither him nor Lamy held anything back. It was as if Onegin was on the verge of breakdown, hanging on the thread of hope that if Tatiana takes him back, things will be okay. He *needs* someone to tell him he is worth something, and as he tugs on Tatiana's hand, refusing to let her refuse him, there is dispair written all over his face. The most powerful and tragic moment is when Tatiana forces him to leave. If you weren't crying before, this will do it. Both characters are just shattered.
It's interesting to compare 2 of the casts. For me, both Rex and Hubbe were able to ellicit sympathy but in totally different ways. Both Yu and Lamy were magnificent Tatiana's, thoroughly convincing. Here is one dancer who has danced the role for at least a decade, and another who made her debut in it just a few years ago when she was still in the corps, both achieving an effective and moving portrayal, and making the role their own. It is good to know that we have a Tatiana for the future, and one that right now is giving some of her best performances and later will be able to share her understanding of the role with future generations.

#9 jer468

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Posted 30 November 2003 - 02:03 PM

Just add my voice to the kudos for Rex and Nan's performance.

I'm not a huge Rex fan, in fact I must confess to thinking that it was time he stepped out of the role and let Aleksandr and some of the other boys take it on, but he did give a wonderful reading. In fact, I found some of his choices a lot more interesting than those made by Reid Anderson (I know that's heresy) and if anything, his performance was more subtle and nuanced.

But for me Nan was the star of the night. She was simply exquisite. (Perhaps not Evelyn Hart but that'll come.) The company should actively work at making her into a star. But they won't. The only stars are James and Karen and when they need a dancer, Greta steps in.

Sonia and Aleksandr were wonderful as well. In fact it is encouraging that 40 years after R&J entered the rep, the company is still dancing Cranko so well. Much has been lost with the focus on contemporary choreography (esp. Bournonville as last year's Napoli proved) but Cranko still looks good. I was a bit surprised that Jennifer Fournier wasn't given Tatiana ... it feels like a good role for her.

And the orchestra is sounding wonderful this year.

#10 Paquita

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Posted 30 November 2003 - 03:35 PM

jer468, thanks for chiming in:) It's nice to get some discussion going on the NBoC forum!
I'd be really interested to hear what you thought about Reid Anderson's Onegin (or any other Onegin's you've seen). Were you there for the premiere?
Having seen Aleksandar as Onegin and Lensky, I prefered him as Lensky. His temperament seems much more suited to that role.
I agree about your comment on Bournonville, and if you search this forum you'll be able to find a thread about that mixed program (Napoli excerpts, Spectre de la Rose, Elite Syncopations, Judgement of Paris).
I can't very easily imagine Fournier as Tatiana. She never struck me as a strong actress, but I may not have seen her in the right role yet. I've mostly seen her in contemporary works, esp. Balanchine. I saw her Odette/Odile in 1999, and was not really impressed.
Well, I agree with you about Xiao Nan Yu! Aside from her amazing technique (longest lines ever), her artistry is truly beyond her years and it will be exciting to watch her develop. Rex obviously thinks very highly of her, and in one interview dubbed her the company's next star. But as you mentioned, Kudelka is not interested in building a company of "stars" but rather team players. He wants the choreography, namely, HIS ballets, to be the stars (well, if the ticket sales from the last mixed program are any indication... All I can say is that I went to see Evelyn Hart not Gazebo Dances), kind of like a NYCB attitude rather than ABT. Nonetheless, the press certainly wants to make a star out of her. There were several articles about her after she made her debut as Tatiana. She's been compared to Karen Kain several times. But Nan seems unphased by all the fuss. I don't think she really cares whether she becomes a "star" or not. If the depth of her interpretations and her ability to perform under pressure are any indication, she's got a good head on her shoulders and is bound to go far.

#11 jer468

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 06:59 PM

Paquita, I was there in 1984. I'm pretty sure that I saw Karen and Reid. Since then I've since Sabina Allemann, Veronica Tennant, Evelyn Hart, Karen a couple more times and Martine as well as Xiao this time around. I can't remember the men.

You're probably right about Aleksandr being a better Lensky. In fact, the company has had some wonderful Lensky's over the years ... starting with Raymond Smith and Jeremy Ransom and although I wasn't a huge fan of him generally, I thought Johan was a good Lensky as well. Sasha was beautiful though. The fact that he is so quiet on-stage, works beautifully for that role ... no external noise, everything is introspective.


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