Onegin (as a ballet) summer 2002
Posted 31 January 2002 - 08:20 PM
2002-3 is the MacMillan season - have you heard some of the ballets to be performed? - Mayerling, Manon, Prince of the Pagodas. Since Adam's danced all these main roles before and RB's so short on male principals (I really can't think of more than a couple dancers at the RB who could dance the Crown Prince in Mayerling) I'm hopeful he'll guest again.
Posted 04 May 2002 - 07:27 PM
I've seen Onegin a few times - once done by Stuttgart and I have to admit it never made the sort of impression on me it did on others; I found it to be two rather brutal pas de deux with a ballet flimsily attached. But also, because the main parts carry the ballet I also realize that a great cast or great coaching can change the ballet utterly.
Did anyone read the articles in Dance Now? Do you have any comment on it, or recent or pending productions of the ballet?
Posted 20 July 2002 - 05:45 AM
The central pas de deux around which most criticism (good and bad) revolve point to the paucity of the ballet as a choreographic force to be reckoned with. And the pas de deux themselves are bathetic, overblown and melodramatic in the worst sense. They confuse sentiment with emotion, overacting with passion, they are the choreographic equivalent of the very worst ham actor.
Onegin has been championed to the hilt on ballet.co.uk and this is a problem. It prohibits debate about the merits or lack thereof of the work itself.
Adam Cooper is a dancer of plank like elasticity he brings nothing but poor partnering, inflexible dancing and a characterisation which Robert Helpmann as the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang would have rejected as being overly hammy.
The structure of the ballet is atrocious, the bathos of the scrim, with Onegin's credo "When I am without honour, honour no longer exists" which becomes the mantle Tatiana herself inherits is crass and overstates the drama. Drama that Cranko was unable to merely paint with choreographic tools. The duel scene is so cack handed and ineffectual as to be laughable, and true dramatic thrust is dashed on the rocks of sentiment and melodrama.
A dreadful awful ballet, only distancing the Royal from its heritage as a great company even more. The rot continues and at an advanced pace.
The most recent worrying sign is that Deirdre Chapman, a former soloist with SFB and now a "moder" dancer with Rambert. Is to join the Royal as a principal. Although congratulated to the hilt on the parochial ballet.co, a further worrying sign that the Royal is becoming ever more dependent on the ABT model as a national ballet of anywhere, and Stretton's vision for the Royal is one of a cod-modern repertory company of homogenous blandness.
Posted 20 July 2002 - 06:11 AM
Originally posted by kb
The most recent worrying sign is that Deirdre Chapman, a former soloist with SFB and now a "moder" dancer with Rambert. Is to join the Royal as a principal. Although congratulated to the hilt on the parochial ballet.co, ...
What? As I write, there is absolutely no comment about Chapman's move on ballet.co. The posting about her is the press release from Rambert, the company she is leaving.
Posted 20 July 2002 - 06:19 AM
It's not as if there aren't a myriad of deserving principal material women amongst the company members already.
Posted 20 July 2002 - 07:35 AM
A request, please. Could we leave what's going on on other web sites out of the discussion? I started to edit out your comments about ballet.co, because I don't want attacks or negative comments about any other web site posted here, but then saw that Jane had made a clarifying remark and noted your apology and so left them.
I don't think it's quite accurate to say that ballet.co champions Onegin. There have been discussions -- pro and con -- about the ballet on that site, as there have been here.
We've had debates here on the identity of the Royal Ballet question in the past, and there's no reason not to have another one I'll post that as another thread.
Posted 20 July 2002 - 09:16 AM
Posted 20 July 2002 - 11:45 AM
Onegin is an important ballet to the money men and the board of ballet companies as it is a three acter which is bankable, and modern. As such the company can pay lip service to the notion of presenting a modern work, the Cranko connection particularly within the RB means that the board can also refute allegations of ignoring the compan's heritage.
The consensus among the greatest creative minds of 20th century ballet is that the three acter is out of time with modernism, however, the three acter brings in the moolah. So Macmillan who made a number of bankable three acters holds a far more venerated position within the ballet world (or would appear to do so) than Ashton, who was by far a greater creative genius. (One can conjecture that if Balanchine had not had Kirstein behind him, who was in complete agreement as to the irrelevance of the three act ballet, but rather had his money men insisted on bankable three acters for opera house crowds, then how would his career have progressed?).
But back to Onegin, as Mary Cargill so rightly pointed out, the genius of Onegin as a poetic work strains to be released from the ballet, and in a great artist's hands it almost succeeds, but the work is a failure. It is crass, hysterically emotional and bathetic. Yes Rojo, Galeazzi, Cojocaru, Nunez, Tewesley etc etc are wonderul dancers and the fact that one responds emotively is a tribute to them as dancers, but the work itself does not merit such accolades.
Posted 20 July 2002 - 12:00 PM
I found a Sunday piece by the NY Times' John Martin, by the way, written after the Danes had brought Ashton's Romeo and Juliet to New York in 1956, that "50 years from now, when the three-act form is again dominant, we will look to this ballet" as the one that pointed the way to the return to the three-act form.
I'd prefer the Ashton version to any save its polar opposite, the Lavrovsky, which, I think, is as great in its very different way. And I think the Ashton Romeo was very much of this century in its depth, and the way that it got to the root of the story and translated it into a dance impulse -- unlike Cranko's Onegin, although I think one must always remember, to be fair, that Cranko was working with a very modest company and died very young. What he would have accomplished had he had the Royal Ballet at his disposal, what he would have made in his 50s and 60s, we'll never know.
Like Mary, I've also seen performances of "Onegin" that convince one it's a good ballet, and some performances that expose its weaknesses heartlessly. I think there could be an interesting aesthetic debate over "what is the work," in the sense of, how much does performance count? "Dying Swan," danced by me, would not look like much of a ballet. But danced by Pavlova, I'm convinced it was high art.
(Note to KB, and I'll delete this when I've heard from you, please check your email )
Posted 20 July 2002 - 12:36 PM
Posted 20 July 2002 - 04:01 PM
Onegin is very popular with ballerinas of a certain age, (Makarova chose to dance it when she was allowed back into Russia to perform at the Kirov when she was 48) and here I think lies the problem. It's almost like a comeback tour piece for Tina Turner, a role which a no-longer platinum technique can cope with, yet allows a great artist to play up to the glamour of their legend, the laurels of their histrionic ability.
Seymour had no choice but to dance it with ENB, she didn't want to dance anymore, however financial expediencies made it necessary for her to dance again, so as such her dancing had an integrity that a ballerina on a final tour often lacks.
However, one thing that struck me on viewing it several times with several very good ballerinas is how bad the pas de deux actually are. How laughable the conventions Cranko employed are, how crass even. The mirror pas de deux is cringeworthy, I feel. The moment he steps through is sheer adolescent fantasy, which is not a criticism, the burning sexuality and desire of adolescence are very powerful subjects, but it requires infinite subtlety and respect of these strong emotions to carry off the piece of art dealing with them (Fournier's Le Grand Meulnes with the section on Le Fete Etrange is a case where this is handled brilliantly) moreover the pas de deux are very badly handled, or rather constructed, overblown, obvious and naff. Where grandiose statement overtakes movement which is truthful or subtle.
The bit with the mirror at the start where Tatiana sees Onegin reflected, Seymour played as if she had been given the most tremendous electric shock, she literally rocked across the stage, it was a moment she invested with such force and truth and integrity, she had see a man she loved instantly but could never have, it made the ballet. Moreover it gave great depth to the dancer dancing Onegin, it invested him with the mysticism and charisma he must have if he is not to come off as a totally selfish, murderous bastard. However, this moment in the hands of every other ballerina I have seen dance the role has made no impact, no awareness that this moment is the brutal total awakening of adolescent sexuality and yearning, the moment Tatiana is aware of the world of adult passion which exists outside the confines of her house, her family her books her comfort zone.
Lolly, I have to say as a ballet I really think it's bad, really, really stinky.
Posted 20 July 2002 - 07:05 PM
Posted 21 July 2002 - 08:06 AM
Onegin isn't a ballet I know extremely well (I've only seen it a few times) but my opinion in closer to KB's. As I wrote on the other thread, it's two rather brutal pas de deux with a ballet flimsily draped around it. I've not yet seen the production that makes a case for it, but for me, that would take dancers having to not just perform the material, but transcend it.
Posted 23 July 2002 - 04:38 AM
"Cringeworthy" as KB has so aptly said, is Cranko's pas de deux in a nutshell. I also find them quite frightening, and dangerous.
When I could still dance, I never liked lifted myself, at all, and having since found out about Bournonville, that prejudice has of course been strengthened. Those Cranko or Macmillan-style lifts, which are now rife throughout the ballet world, the man and the woman climbing all over each other, she dragged upside down along the floor, and, horror of horrors, that awful flip in the air only to land SPLAT on the man's shoulder. ARGH !
How ever does Cranko get away with it ? He gets away with it, precisely as you have said, because there are people like Lynn Seymour or Alina Cojocaru dancing Tatiana.
Posted 23 July 2002 - 05:57 AM
Sylvia, I didn't say I thought it was a great ballet with Seymour, I said she convinced me that it was a great ballet through the force of her interpretation.
However, I was only 13 when I saw it with Seymour, and here I think lies the crux. As an adolescent one's tastes and opinions are unsophisticated and respond to overblown emotion and sentiment, qualities which Onegin is overladen (or perhaps overburdened with) qualities such as bathos are mistaken for true pathos, the frantic scrabbling of Cranko's pas de deux are not seen as overwrought but filled with meaning and import. I was a junior at the RBS when I saw this and perhaps as well my childish mind which was full of the magic of ballet and the burgeoning thought of a career in ballet responded to this too. (It's as Sibley said when she saw Fonteyn for the first time, she didn't get the point - she compared it to listening to Mozart when you've just learned the scales, you want the wild drama of Salieri, you don't appreciate true creative genius).
If one thinks of the final pas de deux where Tatiana literally drags Onegin behind her on his knees as she laboriously steps forward, as the music swells (and what a bad score it is too) it has all the dramatic force and truth of the closing scenes of a particularly overwrought episode of Dynasty - yes, it is dramatic, yes it is forceful, yes it is powerful, but it doesn't exactly make it good, good choreography or good drama.
My volte face is not a sudden and unexplainable occurrence, it comes from having passed into adulthood, (I'm now 28) and having gained a wider knowledge of choreography, dance and drama. If one looks at the Nocturne pas de deux from Ashton's The Dream, one sees love rendered into movement with all the skill, subtlety and passion of genius (I know that the love of The Dream is very different from that expressed in the finale of Onegin, but as Judith Mackrell says of Ashton "Ashton never strained after love, sex or passion but these qualities are implicit in ever step", with Cranko these are not implicit but explicit, indeed the audience is smashed over the head with them)
[edited by alexandra] Crankos work as Leigh said is a couple of brutal pas de deux spruced up with zero characterisation of minor roles and a token prescence of the corps doing not much at the beginning of act 3 to justify it as being a three act ballet. (Katharine, I don't blame the corps for looking out of sorts, if I had had to wait around in a dressing room till 10 pm to perform five minutes of not very much interest, I'd be put out too) Moreover let's not forget that under Ashton the corps of the RB was considered to be the best in the world.
The RB is no longer a world class company, however it has a world class reputation and due to it's position, a world class roster of stars, but the stars (save for two) are not products of the organisation. And Onegin is a star vehicle, however the defining characteristic of star vehicles is not the work itself, the work very rarely has little or no merit, but the vehicle allows the star to shine as much or as little as they like, to stand out regardless of the action around them. But a ballet company is the sum of its parts, a great ballet company is reflected by its corps (as Makarove says of the Kingdom of the Shades scene in Bayadere, it is here that a ballet company comes into its own, where its greatness can be perceived, where every corps member is a principal.)
Onegin was the hit of the Sretton's first term, because it ws the first large scale production where the company seemed to be a great company, but it isn't, it's the first production where the great principals were given such onus that they seemed to be the company, the large scale classical productions mounted Don Q, Bayadere received luke warm to poor reviews, because they were poor, one could see how far from greatness as a great classical company the RB had fallen.
And finally Seymour, well dancers like her come along once in a generation, (and I saw her at the age of 47, when she was onstage with dancers young enough to be her children, in some cases even her grand children (technically), yes she was slightly overweight, her technique was shakey in places etc etc but it didn't matter she blew everyone else off the stage, she was and is a genius, in her hands Onegin's crassness and stupidity became special because she had the gift of genius to transmogify the mundane into the spiritual. Cojocaru definitely has the budding of this gift, her potential for genius of Seymours calibre is definitely the same. One hopes that the RB will treat her rather better than they did Seymour, when they realise that their new bankable money maker is human too.
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