Posted 23 April 1999 - 09:25 AM
It was wildly popular in America when the Stuttgart first brought it in the '60s (and wildly popular in Stuttgart). There was the usual divide among critics here, with Clive Barnes saying it was a masterpiece and that Cranko was a great choreographer, and Arlene Croce practically throwing up in Ballet Review, in one of the most passionate, partly vicious, partly funny assessments of a ballet and a company ever written (in which she coined the phrase "pop ballet" of "Onegin," predicting, direly, that it would be the direction ballet would head.)
I missed "Onegin" in its bloom of youth, not seeing it until the late 1970s, and I've always found it very dependent on its cast. I've seen wretched "Onegins," that make Croce's review seem kind, and I've seen very fine ones. I take her point that it's a simplistic retelling of both the poem and the opera, but find the other complaint of anti-Oneginers -- that its structure is too simple, there are no small classical roles (one of the elements that makes a ballet choreographically complex) -- accurate, but not insurmountable. It suited the very young company (many were upset that Cranko had created a work that made his very young company look like a very grand and comparatively established one, i.e., the Royal at that time); we don't know what Cranko would have accomplished had he been able to develop that company had he not died so young.
How do we divide over "Onegin" now? A grand, new idea of ballet, or the end of civilization as we know it? Or something in between?
[This message has been edited by alexandra (edited April 23, 1999).]
Posted 23 April 1999 - 10:35 AM
Posted 23 April 1999 - 10:47 AM
Posted 23 April 1999 - 10:52 AM
That being said, I saw Stuttgart do Onegin last summer at the Lincoln Center Festival I *think* Tamas Dietrich was Onegin, Yseult Lendvai was Tatiana, Vladimir Malakhov was Lensky. I didn't find it a very moving event, but I think Mary's assessment of the work as cast dependent is on target, at least in a positive sense that a great cast can create magic. There are two very fine pas de deux in it, but they seem oddly divorced from the plot of the ballet to me. And I was just laughing at the trio for Olga, Tatiana and Lensky before the duel. The formations they drop into and out of made them look like an overwrought water pump.
I think this ties back to the Manon conversation where we were speaking of US/Continental/UK splits. Much as story dance is about the only dance that sells to a general populace in the US, it gets an awful lot less respect among aficionados here, who were raised on Balanchine and other proponents of abstract dance. If you're going to have a plot, it had *better* work in dance, and it had better be most eloquently expressed within dance. I think it's why the Romeo and Juliets of both Cranko and MacMillan are in repertory here. They really succeed as dance.
Posted 23 April 1999 - 12:00 PM
I am fortunate to have seen some truly great casts of Tatiana in "Onegin" in London with the then London Festival Ballet in the 1980s - Marcia Haydee (the creator of the role), Natalia Makarova, Eva Evdokimova, Maximova, Lynn Seymour. My favourite among this short list is Lynn Seymour who in 1988 (the weekend before the Kirov's London season) gave the most moving interpretation.
Posted 23 April 1999 - 05:35 PM
Fascinating that perhaps ballet could do it! Thanks for that thought Leigh. I would love to hear what a Russian language reader who has read the poem and seen the ballet has to say. Sorry to diverge, since I can't really comment on Onegin the ballet. I find the poem (in translation) less than inspiring though.
Posted 07 May 1999 - 10:44 AM
be danced this week-end by the Ballet de Nice in Nice.
I've read that the former POB principals Charles Jude
and Monique Loudieres will dance it as guest stars (so there'll be quite a lot
of ballerina/ˆo polish ). Pity there's a train strike
in Marseille now...
Posted 08 May 1999 - 02:07 AM
Posted 08 May 1999 - 07:53 AM
I found your comment about irony especially interesting. Irony is a Danish specialty, and perhaps that was the key to it. Onegin (Arne Villumsen) wasn't a cad -- the production had an absolute sense of place and cast -- and Tatania (Heidi Ryom) was bookish and awkward. In the dream scene, they did something I've never seen, and that absolutely made the ballet. You knew it was a dream. It was that simple. It wasn't just First Pas De Deux. Villumsen began it cold and distant, and, as the pas de deux progressed, became increasingly warm and ardent -- he became her dream. The performance made me wonder all the more, is it the dance or the dancers. Can a ballet be mediocre choreographically and great in performance? (The reverse is certainly true.) In this one instance, the answer was yes. Which leads to the next question. If a ballet can seem great in performance, yet mediocre in most performances, who's "fault" is it?
Posted 08 May 1999 - 11:44 PM
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