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anoushka

Onegin (as a ballet) summer 2002

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Hi, I am going to see the Royal Ballet's new production of Onegin next week- there have been some mixed reviews about it. Has anyone seen other productions of this balley, and did you like it? Also, do you think I would benefit from reading Pushkin's poem first? Thanks for your help!

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Welcome, Anoushka! I hope you enjoy Onegin -- please write and tell us what you thought.

I've seen a lot of productions of Onegin and have enjoyed some more than others -- I'd certainly be very interested to see the Royal Ballet one. Often whether you like it or not depends on whether you like the dancers, of course.

The ballet is very clear, I think. You won't need Pushkin's poem to understand it, although, of course, you might want to read the poem for its own sake.

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I saw Onegin last week and I simply adored it. First night (Adam Cooper, Tamara Rojo, Alina Cojocaru, Ethan Stiefel) was a kind of a dream cast for me and I wasn't disappointed.

I was lucky enough to see a rehearsal that afternoon as well and was completely bowled over by Robert Tewsley (guesting), Mara Galeazzi, Marianela Nunez and Johan Persson. I kept thinking to myself what a talented lot we have and it's spurred me on to get tickets for the other casts as well. I'm not entirely happy at the start Ross Stretton's made, but this I'll give him this - with Don Q and now Onegin, in showcasing all these talented young soloists (and a few from the corps as well) he's exposed me to dancers I'd have never bothered to see before. I can't even begin to say how much I've spent on tickets already and the season's barely begun!

I was a little surprised by the mixture of reviews, which went from rather cool (Rojo's face described as mask-like - I thought she was very expressive!) to out and out gushing (Ismene Brown from the Daily Telegraph was extremely impressed).

Another review I read put down the sets as dated (on loan or bought from another company I think?) but I disagree quite strongly. The sets are very simple, in most cases just a beautifully detailed backcloth and a few pieces of furniture. I think they caught the atmosphere perfectly and its simplicity allows the dancers to shine. The muted pastel-coloured costumes, especially those of the corps, were indescribably lovely.

I was hoping someone here could help resolve a little confusion some of us are having - who is the older sister, Tatiana or Olga? Watching Tamara and Alina, by their mannerisms I'd tend to think that Olga was the older, more experienced with men sister. But from a physical appearances I thought Tamara danced the older one.

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I saw ABT's Onegin last June. Their sets and costumes are on loan from the Nat'l Ballet of Canada. I happened to love them - thought they were just right for the period.

The cast I saw had Julie Kent as Tatiana and Xiomara Reyes as Olga. Olga is, in fact, the elder sister. To me, Olga seemed more of a flirty younger sister sort than Tatiana. I thought it was perhaps a matter of casting. Reyes's dancing is light-hearted and my overall impression of her Olga personality was that she was adorable. Which made her seem so young. Kent's Tatiana, on the other hand, although she too did an admirable job, still came off appearing older than Olga. In the end, I thought that the two dancers, taken together, were miscast. Each would have been fine, I thought, in her role had there been a different dancer in the other role.

[ November 26, 2001: Message edited by: vagansmom ]

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Surely Tatiana is the older sister? It is stated quite clearly, several times, in the Pushkin original, and watching previous performances it has never crossed my mind that this was not the case - in fact surely it's part of the point.

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Maybe they changed it for the ballet. Either that or the ABT program notes got it wrong. They read as follows: "...he meets his friend Lensky, about to marry a bourgeois young woman, Olga, whose younger sister, Tatiana, falls in love with the glamorous, cosmopolitan Onegin."

In looking over the bulk of the program notes, though, it surelooks like they intend Olga to be the elder sister. She's engaged. Tatiana, on the other hand, is a "coltish girl", Onegin thinks she's "aflame with impetuous first love", he is irritated by her "outburst of adolescent love".

I'd prefer, as mentioned in my comments in my first post here, to believe Olga as the younger sister. It was a stretch to think of Reyes's Olga as the elder one to Kent's Tatiana. However I suppose we all know that older sisters, by virtue of their age, aren't necessarily the wiser or more serious sibling. tongue.gif

[ November 27, 2001: Message edited by: vagansmom ]

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I think that must have been an error in the ABT program. I don't think Cranko changed that for the ballet, and I've never seen an Olga who was cast as the older sister.

[ November 27, 2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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the programs i have from the early tours of 'onegin' by the stuttgart ballet make no reference to the respective ages of olga and tatiana in the ballet's synopsis.

nabokov's translation of pushkin says something specific about olga's age, when he states in his synopsis of the poem's second chapter:

'Eighteen-year-old Lenski is in love with a maiden of sixteen named Olga, his childhood playmate.'

perhaps further notes in nabakov give tatiana's actual age w/ respect to her sister's, but i haven't come across it in my cursory reading.

interestingly in the balanchine/mason 'complete stories of the great ballets,' 'onegin' is not under 'o' where one would expect to find it as 'onegin' but under 'e' where it is mistakenly entitled 'eugene onegin'.

even tho' cranko's libretto changes pushkin's occasion for honoring tatiana on her name day to one celebrating her birthday, no age is given in the notes i've seen.

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Pushkin's poem was published as "Eugene Onegin", rather than simply "Onegin".

I did a quick Google search to look for the verse-novel and found a translation by Alan D. Corre where, in a stanza about Olga, it goes on to say:

"Now, pray permit, my reader dear,

Her elder sister to appear.

XXIV

'Tatiana' was her sister's name..."

So, at least in that translation, Olga is clearly the younger sister.

I also read a brief biography on Pushkin. Sadly, the end of his life strikingly paralleled that of Lensky.

Pushkin wrote "Eugene Onegin" from 1823 - 31. He married Natalia Goncharova on February 18, 1831, in Moscow. In 1834 his wife met a man named d'Anthes who scandalously pursued Mme. Pushkina for two years. Pushkin challenged him to a duel several times but retracted the challenge when he heard that d'Anthes was really in love with Mme. Pushkina's sister. In fact, d'Anthes did marry the sister but continued to pursue Pushkin's wife. Pushkin again challenged d'Anthes to a duel which took place on January 27, 1837. D'Anthes fired first, and Pushkin was mortally wounded; he died two days later.

So, to compare:

Lensky is engaged to Olga

Onegin flirts with Olga

Lensky challenges Onegin to a duel

Onegin kills Lensky in the duel

Onegin later realizes that Olga's sister could've been the love of his life.

Pushkin marries Natalia Goncharova

d'Anthes flirts with Mme. Pushkina

Pushkin challenges d'Anthes to a duel

d'Anthes marries Mme. Pushkina's sister

d'Anthes kills Pushkin in the duel.

It makes me wonder if Pushkin would've chosen a different path had he never written "Eugene Onegin". Perhaps having lived with the events of that story for those 8 years while writing it, he then felt compelled to live out its ending?

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I have to admit I had my doubts when casting was first announced and Alina was to be Tatiana. Then when I read Alina's first reviews for Onegin I expected her to be wonderful. Now after watching her for myself I have to say she exceeded my very best expectations! Her transformation from innocence to passion was breath-taking. In the mirror scene every step, every lift flowed as part of one beautifully fluid movement. I read statements like this everywhere but I hadn't realized until now that it was something I'd never seen or appreciated.

Adam Cooper is a hard act to follow but Kobborg more than matched him, using his enormous technical capacity to inject drama into his role. Before the duel while arguing with Lensky he pulls off these multiple pirouettes, amazingly fast and centred before stopping suddenly and slamming his fist down, and the speed at which he spins made his anger seem all the greater. I also didn't find him as ice-cold as the others. His interpretation I thought was more subtle, more nuanced and no less beautiful to watch. He's a brilliant partner for Alina. They looked so confident it was like they'd been dancing together all their lives. They had so much speed and held nothing back in the acrobatic lifts.

There's been so much made about Alina being 'not mature enough' for Tatiana but I disagree very strongly. Of course she can't hide her youth but she had such poise from the start of Act III and her pdd with Gremin was so loving and kind she convinced me wholeheartedly of her maturity.

In the final letter writing scene I got chills from the passion and desperation let loose. Their partnership is extraordinarily memorable and their performance is a must see.

Johan Persson's Lensky was very accomplished, especially his heart-felt Act II solo. Gemma Bond, who's been plucked from the corps and I think has only been with the RB for a year, made a lovely Olga but her interpretation I felt wasn't particularly deep. Still I'm looking forward to seeing how she develops in the company.

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Wow! Its sounds very exciting- I'm going tonight to see the Tapper/Coppen/Nunez/Tuckett cast with Johannas Stepanek replacing Rupert Pennefather, so I'll let you guys know how it goes-I can't wait!!

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I did see Tapper/Coppen/Nunez/Stepanek for the Saturday matinee but I'd used up all the best words in describing Alina and Johan! Jamie and Nathan were wonderful as well. Tapper is a real talent in the company, very passionate and very DIFFERENT from the others I'd seen before. And I'm so pleased that RB have snagged Coppen. I had never been a huge fan of his until now. Stepanek stepped in at the last minute for an injured Pennefather (both from the corps). He was so sweet in Act I, had no problems at all partnering Nunez. Apart from a couple wobbles he was lovely in his Act II solo. It's always great to see new faces. It makes me curious how many more dancers have learned the roles but are on standby in case of injury. Will we ever get to see them dance?

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... and before I forget I hope you have a super time Anoushka! Will you be seeing any other casts?

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Hi Syvia- I won't see any other casts because I'm leaving to travel the world for 6 months on Sunday, and I really wish i could now!

I really enjoyed the performance and thought Nunez and Stepanek were amazing- Johannes in particular because I've only ever seen him in 'cheeky boy' roles rather than more serious ones. He showed such depth of feeling and I was nearly in tears at his despair with Olga, before the duel.

I hadn't seen Nathan Coppen before, and I wasn't that struck by him, but maybe that was because I was totally carried away by Johannes!! biggrin.gif

The performance as a whole was very well done, I though the corps were excellent in the ensemble dances, I especially liked the ball scene.

I certainly reccomend this production to anyone!!

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Last night a packed house saw another impeccable performance by both Robert Tewsley and Mara Galeazzi.

Tewsley dances more beautifully than anyone I've ever seen. He's incredibly lyrical and light on his feet, his jumps seem weightless and his pirouettes are so fast and don't move a millimetre off mark. His Onegin is so self-absorbed and condescending - in his first pdd with Tatiana it is clear who is dictating the dance. I really hope the RB has room for him to guest again in the near future.

Mara was wonderfully passionate from where I was sitting. Her final pdd with Tewlsey was beautifully detailed down to her trembling hands. I think I agree that she makes the transition from young girl to mature woman the best (though not necessarily the best Tatiana - I think it's pretty much even between Rojo, Cojocaru and Galeazzi).

I don't think anyone can match Alina Cojocaru in her portrayal of Olga. She's such an incredibly bright presence on stage and outshines nearly everyone in her wake. Her Olga is such an innocent, blissfully unaware of the damage her flirtations will wreak.

Ivan Putrov, a promising first soloist, was a fair Lensky. I thought his reactions to Olga's flirting were a little muted - not nearly as harsh as I thought the role called for. But his solo in the moonlight in Act II was still very moving. This solo along with the dancing leading up to the duel is my favourite of all.

I also thought the corps also looked in great form last night - some sections had noticeably improved from December.

I'd seen so many Onegins last year (I'm not saying how many - it's too embarassing!) I thought maybe I wouldn't be so taken by it all anymore, but no worries. It's still fresh and beautiful and I'm looking forward to Rojo and Cooper's final performance on Saturday, and Cojocaru and Kobborg next week.

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I just got back from Onegin tonight, after seeing Tapper/Coppen/Nunez/Stepanek for the second time, but with Christopher Saunders as Gremin this time. I had to see it again because of Johannes Stepanek - last time I was completely bowled over by him and he didn't let me down tonight! I just believed so much that he is impulsive enough and full of youthful passion to be so disturbed by Olga's flirting that he simply can't bear it.

The man next to me was surprised I was there to see the same cast twice, but as the curtain fell on Act II, I turned to him and said "THAT'S why I had to come again!" He did agree!

There are so many parts of this ballet that I love, and was very glad I went twice because I was reminded of them all. I love the parts where the characters walk in front of the curtain, and the grand jetes diagonally across the stage, then back again from the other wing. And the front cloth with "EO" on it.

I hope RB do Onegin again soon. (There are only two more performances now) And I hope Johannes is given more opportunities in the company... gosh to think what he could do with Romeo or Des Grieux... I can't wait. smile.gif

Also, I was "upstairs" tonight, as I had last minute tickets, and it is very different up there! The noise of applause was unbelievable during the curtain calls, and all the "Bravos"! I think you must be sheltered from it a bit "downstairs", because all the tiers are in between.

A lady told me at interval that Ross Stretton, Monica Mason, Donald MacLeary and Antoinette Sibley were in the audience. And I saw Zenaida Yanowsky too. smile.gif

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Lolly you're making me wish I'd gone to see Stepanek again too! He seems to be taking on more roles this season - he features in at least 2 ballets in the triple bill. I did catch Cojocaru-Kobborg-Persson-Bond last week. Alina and the two Johans were exceptional, but I have some reservations about Gemma. I think the disparity between her and the others is too huge and is actually a little distracting.

Onegin is returning at the end of July - just 6 performances!

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I was there the 23rd and 24th (had a wonderful trip, thank you!) I agree with the raves of both casts so will add just a few thoughts. Of Coppen and Kobborg (couldn't they make these names just a bit dissimilar while I get to know these dancers?!): Kobborg was the stronger dancer, bordering on perfection in his control. I had forgotten about those rapid pirouettes; his were truly impressive! I found his interpretation of Onegin's character detrimental to the story. He made Onegin seem demented; he'd suddenly get this wild look in his eye and look off in the distance as if he heard voices. As a result the final pdd seemed less plausible since I found it hard to believe Titiana would fall in love with someone so wierd. Coppen's Onegin was much more socially acceptable (and he's so darn cute!) Of the women: After seeing Tapper Wed. I thought nothing could top it, but Cojocaru did. Like Kobborg she was as close to perfect as you could hope. Tapper was wonderful but Cojocaru added just a bit more expansion, control, development to what she did. For me the final pdd's passion belonged to Tapper and Coppen, mostly because of Coppen's carefully developed characterization of Onegin (OK, the cuteness didn't hurt). Two great performances back to back; who could ask for more.

Giannina

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Yes Sylvia, I just can't say enough about Johannes Stepanek! I wanted to see Ivan Putrov as Lensky too, but in the end I chose to see Johannes again. They are both dancers who I hope get a lot of notices this season. I'm sure I have a ticket to see something else Johannes is cast in this season - could be Remanso? so I'll be sure to post my opinions! Can you belive he's in the corps?

Gianinna, I'm glad you had a good time at ROH - don't we have a great company at the moment? smile.gif

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I can't seem to shut up here.

On neither the program for the given performance nor in the 4 pound (price) booklet sold in the lobby is there mention of any dancer other than those dancing the leads. It's like the corps didn't exist. Somewhat insulting to them, and not very informative to the public.

Giannina

[ January 30, 2002: Message edited by: Giannina Mooney ]

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If you want to know about anybody in particular, I can try to help! There are biographies on different dancers in other programmes so I'll hunt out others if you would like to know about them. There are a few on dancers from the corps who are getting breaks - like Johannes (can't stop talking about him either!).

I agree there should be pictures of all the dancers, not just a list of who is ranked where in the company. The only place I can think of that has pictures of them all is in Sir Anthony's Gala programme from last May - the company is standing in rows, like a school picture! smile.gif

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I asked the RB about this only last week and they said they'd be putting up dancer biographies and photos on the ROH website soon. The site's really nice - has expanded quite a bit if you haven't been recently. I think both Stepanek and Putrov danced as boys in the corps in the first act and I can name a few others.

I went to see Cojocaru and Kobborg on Tuesday, Onegin's Last Night <sniff, sniff> until July. I think they were the best I've ever seen them. The two give such intelligent, well thought-out and yet such passionate readings of Onegin and Tatiana. I think they are less overtly emotional than Adam Cooper and Tamara Rojo, much more subtle and nuanced. And they are the most brilliant dancers. Their partnership reminds me a little of what people say about Guillem and Cope -that the strength of their partnering allows them to take bigger risks. I swear I heard the whole theatre collectively suck in it's breath when they did those huge lighting-fast flying lifts in the mirror pdd. And I don't think there's any question in my mind now that Alina is of the finest dance-actresses in the RB - the range of expressions on her face in any one scene was amazing. I also thought Johan danced the best Act I and II. I don't think anyone else conveyed such self-absorption as he did through his dancing. Everytime he simply extended a leg, he just reeked of it.

He really piled it on with the make-up in Act III though - his hair was so grey and he has such huge shadows under his eyes he looked like he'd aged 40 years between acts!

Johan Persson was a fabulous Lensky as usual. Gemma Bond has grown on me a little but I still have the same reservations as last time. She's a lovely dancer but looks a little out-classed next to Alina.

Lolly, are you going to see Memories? Stepanek dances in Leaves and I think Beyond Bach as well.

[ January 30, 2002: Message edited by: sylvia ]

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BTW Giannina I'm glad you had a good time here too!

I sorta liked Coppen's interpretation but I didn't think it was as powerful as the others. I agree, he's very cute! But I thought he looked too sweet to be mean when he first stepped out in act I. Still that was 2 months ago so he's probably improved - wish I'd seen him again last week. I wonder why he and Tapper were pulled from their performances as Lensky and Tatiana because that would have been really interesting.

[ January 30, 2002: Message edited by: sylvia ]

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