Yet despite the ballet's excess, it has an imaginative energy, an engagement with its source that feels more Russian, more vibrant than the familiar John Cranko version. It is carried primarily through Eifman's reimagining of period and place. The opening scenes portray Onegin and Lensky forging their friendship in the revolutionary ferment of 1991, their duets framed by news footage of protesters filling Red Square. When Onegin visits Tatiana at her rural home, we are immediately aware of her provincial remoteness, as her friends gossip listlessly in the mosquito-plagued heat; down at the village disco you can almost smell the frustrated hormones along with the cheap beer......
Taken out of his original Romantic context, Onegin’s behaviour becomes harder to understand. Why would he be bored, given the upheavals of recent Russian politics? There’s no code of honour driving him to fight a duel with his best friend, Lensky, so why does he do it?