I saw the Julie Kent/Roberto Bolle performance last night. This ballet needs a lot of dramatic voltage from the dancers to make an exciting evening. It doesn't play itself. Kent and Bolle are lovely dancers but took too long to catch fire - it was too little, too late. Especially in comparison with Vishneva/Gomes on Tuesday night. Kent was lovely and wasn't unconvincing from a distance as a teenager. But her Act I and II Tatiana was very quiet and introverted without the intensely repressed emotion that Vishneva (and Haydée and Makarova and Ferri and...) brought to the role. She was shy, lyrical and small-scale. Very natural, truthful and subtle but not intense. I didn't get a sense of wild new emotions straining to break free. Whereas Vishneva suggested a rich inner life under the surface, Kent seemed dull and prim. The role's choreographic demands are well within Kent's current physical capabilities - there is not a lot of sustained dancing especially at the beginning. In the pas de deuxs she is lifted a lot.
Kent was flying during the lifts. I do not have familiarity with the mechanics, but from what I have read, the ballerina must perform a great deal of the work in a successful lift. If this is true, then she was in excellent form. Indeed, I thought she performed better than she did last year.
Perhaps Kent and Vishneval interpreted the role differently, If Kent did not display intense emotions initially, perhaps she was suggesting that they awoke or arose suddenly upon introduction to the stranger. Perhaps they remained buried in her subconscious mind, or were misunderstood until she faced Onegin. I have read articles separating the characteristics of shyness and intensity, but I agree with Vishneva that these qualities can co-exist. Nevertheless, Kent may have read her character as inexperienced and shy, with other, internalized feelings unrecognized and/or unexpressed.
Roberto Bolle basically has a warm, understated sympathetic personality on stage. Bolle is not the kind of performer who transforms himself into the character like Gomes or Bocca did. He works from his own very glamorous and charismatic personality and if it fits the role, then all is good. He is very much the Prince onstage - essentially gracious. He is imposing but unthreatening. His Albrecht is not really a cad and as Onegin he tried hard to be one but no cigar. In the first act, Bolle smiled too much especially when he is dancing with Tatiana - it is automatic with him, he is very much the gallant with his partners. His tall, dark good looks fit the Byronic image to perfection and his dancing was wonderfully clear, expansive and controlled. But the emotional darkness of the character wasn't there - he played the cruel actions but didn't seem to be feeling them or knowing where they come from. So what he did to Tatiana seemed random and offhand. It struck me that his temperment is better suited to Lensky but who would you cast as Onegin with him?
Now Pushkin's Onegin is a complex character - he is young, very bored and Tatiana's actions are actually very aggressive for a woman of that time. The woman, especially a virtuous young one, is not supposed to take the initiative with a man. And for a woman of her class a declaration of love means marriage - something that Onegin at that time - dependent on a sick uncle - cannot decide for himself. So his cool return of the letter could be seen not as a callous rejection but a brotherly admonition from someone who at that time is not interested in or able to enter into marriage. Cranko makes him into a sadistic male tease who enjoys leading Tatiana on and then cutting her dead.
Many writers discuss Onegin as a "bad guy" and complain they cannot view Gomes as "mean." This characterization seems too facile. Bolle interpreted Onegin in a nuanced, subtle, and complex manner. I do not know if this translated to the back of the theatre. He offered more information about the character than derived from the simplistic explanation contained in the program notes or by many critics and bloggers.
Tatiana's letter clearly troubled Onegin, as interpreted by Bolle. He did not know how to react to it. Faux Pas writes that Onegin was not in a position to consider courting or marrying Tatiana, based on his economic situation, and that the writing of a letter from a woman to a man posed a social problem at that time. Bolle showed that Onegin felt that her feelings and actions imposed a burden upon him, with which he did not want to have to deal. Onegin did not handle receipt of the letter or rejection of Tatiana well, with sufficient consideration or tenderness, but he may have lacked the intelligence, development of character, or experience to address it properly. Nevertheless, he did not act out of a motivation to engage in sadistic cruelty. Indeed, he did not display the indifference or carelessness that he showed to other women whose company he later breezed through and with whom he shared casual encounters later in the ballet. From his actions in the duel and with the letter, he seemed to be pained and frustrated at his inability to reach an easy resolution of difficult situations, and at even being faced with conflicts, problems, and challenges. That someone hurts another, through rejection or otherwise, does not demonstrate evil intentions. Onegin's failures demonstrate his flaws, but do not indicate he is evil. (Of course, this analysis assumes the character is a human being and not a metaphor.) Indeed, FauxPas offers an explanation that Onegin acted in a brotherly manner. This demonstrates concern, not an character that is beyond redemption. I do not know if I agree with this interpretation, but it is one of several that are more generous than many seem willing to consider.
Anyway both Kent and Bolle did their best work in the last act as the mature regal Tatiana and the repentant, truly amorous Onegin. Kent danced the Act III pas de deux with Prince Gremin with a swan-like grace and tenderness with beautiful supported promenades and arabesques. Kent also subtly suggested the conflicting emotions that tore Tatiana apart in the final scene with Onegin where she rejects him. Having more positive and vulnerable emotions to play worked to Bolle's favor and he seemed genuinely repentent and sincere. Suddenly the two seemed to be sparking off of each other and the emotion was at the right level. But then the ballet was over.
The first act pdd was breathtaking, moving, and astonishing. The dream quality and passionate love emanated from the stage. The dream sequence offered both dancers the positive emotions to display, which Faux Pas states well suit them. Indeed, this scene presented Bolle as the princely, handsome, romantic, dream hero and love interest.
The dance with Olga showed a selfish, playful, flirtatious character. In this case, Onegin demonstrated a carelessness toward Lensky, as he showed with the women with whom he had casual encounters, and lack of understanding of the depth of emotions or the impact of his actions upon Lensky, a poet with passionate feelings, as he demonstrated with Tatiana.
The third act pdd involved great vulnerability, openly and wildly expressed. As Faux Pas writes, the dancers express these emotions with great sincerity and passion, as well as technical strength.
Contrary to many writers,Tatiana's rejection of Onegin during this pdd did not involve revenge. She did not want to impose pain upon Onegin, or take any pleasure in Onegin's pain, Indeed, she plainly suffered her own, intense pain. Her success in life, at least from social and presumably economic standpoints, did not constitute "sweet revenge", as suggested elsewhere.
Just a note - all the lifts and partnering worked very well. The problem with their Letter/Dream Onegin pdd at the opening night gala was not only a lack of rehearsal but the stage was too shallow. Here Kent and Bolle were better rehearsed and had the whole stage to traverse whereas at the opening night gala they only had the front third of the Met stage to work with. Also I think this pas de deux needs to be rehearsed on the actual stage itself which it might not have been at the gala.
The performance on Wednesday night was much more intense and focused than at the gala. I think dancing the full ballet offered the opportunity to concentrate on the entire plot and character, which served the dancing. Also, the fouettes and fireworks of all the stars at the gala may have presented a bit of a distraction and created anxieties.
The rest of the cast was fine. Jared Matthews stepped in as Lensky again replacing Blaine Hoven and did well. In his Act III solo there were a few shaky moments which weren't present in his excellent opening night performance. Maria Riccetto was a good Olga with lovely clear footwork and turns but less ballon and vivacity than Osipova (a really hard act to follow). Roman Zhurbin was very sensitive and warm as Prince Gremin and an excellent partner. Martine Van Hamel as Mme. Larina and Nancy Raffa as the Nurse are always welcome presences on the stage and added a touch of character and class to their limited assignments. Decent but far from filled house.
Lensky's solo required greater clarity. The dancing or choreography did not convey Lensky's struggle at that point clearly enough.