The Boston Ballet presents Onegin
John Cranko’s dramatic tale of unrequited love
Performed by the Boston Ballet
Boston Opera House
Runs February 25 to March 6
Ever since the Boston Ballet first brought this John Cranko classic to the U.S., Onegin has been a fan favorite. It is one of the most moving pieces in the classical ballet repertoire, telling the story of the naïve Tatiana Larina who falls in love with the brooding Eugene Onegin. But the older Onegin finds her childish infatuation tiresome, and spurns her — only to have the tables turn when he comes to his senses years later.
The piece has several dramatic themes — not only about Tatiana’s unrequited love, but also Onegin’s personal growth, which is catalyzed when he kills his best friend Lensky. In fact, the piece begins to lose itself after a while, with individual dramatic climaxes that fail to string together into a cohesive whole. This is a common complaint with the ballet, exacerbated by the fact that the score is in fact a mélange of Tchaikovsky pieces cobbled together. This proved to be a significant distraction for me, with clearly intense moments backed by strangely lighthearted music, and the absence of any real musical theme that mirrors the characters’ growth.
Nevertheless, the drama of the piece is sustained by Cranko’s beautiful choreography of individual scenes — especially the mirror pas de deux where Tatiana dreams of being with Onegin, and the final pas de deux where she rejects him in spite of her true feelings. Misa Kuranaga and Eris Nezha are the perfect emissaries for this stunning choreography. In their first meeting and the mirror pas de deux, Nezha’s grounded fondus and balances are complemented by Kuranaga’s flitting leaps, contrasting his aloofness with her over-eagerness. In their partnering, they are just as comfortable in the many complicated lifts and spins as they are in the slower adage, transitioning between both with impressive control.
Diana Albrecht as Olga (Tatiana’s sister) and Alexander Maryianowski as Lensky (Olga’s fiancé and Onegin’s best friend) are excellent foils to the main characters. Maryianowski in particular portrays a captivating Lensky, whose irritation with Onegin grows visibly beneath the surface until it erupts in the challenge to duel, which he immediately regrets. His final solo is a touching rendition that balances both his resignation and indignation. The leads are also supported by an excellent corps, whose precision and energy drew much applause from the audience.
All told, with its strong dramatic moments, the production offers a great introduction to ballet for the newcomer, while intricate choreography and masterful execution provide much for the seasoned balletomane to sink their teeth into.