Sunday, 10 February 2013

Onegin Interpretations

Onegin, Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House – reviewed on 19th January and 1st February

Alina Cojocaru and Jason Reilly in Onegin
Photo: Bill Cooper, courtesy of ROH
John Cranko was a wonderfully clever choreographer when it came to creating characters. His Onegin, which has just finished a 13 show run at the Royal Opera House, includes many brief moments of characterisation for the corps as well as fabulous main roles ripe for interpretation by principal dancers.
The ballet is based on Pushkin’s novel and at its essence is a tale of two people. The bookish Tatiana falls for Onegin’s sophisticated charms but is rejected, leaving her adolescent heart broken. Later, when Tatiana is a married woman at the pinnacle of St Petersburg society, it is Onegin who begs for her love and she who finally rejects him.
I saw two recent Royal Ballet performances – Alina Cojocaru and Jason Reilly on 19th January, and Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares on 1st February – each with very different portrayals of the leading roles. Reilly was a heartless Onegin, playing with the young Tatiana's heart to assert his authority and showing little repentance in the final pas de deux. Cojocaru made a naive Act I Tatiana, struggling to put her feelings onto paper in her love letter and reacting with confusion to Onegin's rejection. But in Act III, we saw a character who had blossomed in a happy marriage. It seemed inevitable Tatiana would reject Onegin, with his coldness and desperate greed to have everything he wanted contrasting her sweet maturity and evident love for her husband.

Nuñez instead made an impulsive Tatiana who had no trouble putting her emotions into words and felt unbridled agony to be rejected. In Act III, she appeared to be in a marriage of security and convenience rather than of the passion she craved. The final pas de deux, with Soares utterly devastated and remourceful for his earlier mistake, gave a more surprising ending. Right until the last moment, it seemed Nuñez might recommence her young love. Her final decision was based not on marital devotion but because she simply couldn't recover from the hurt Onegin had previously caused.

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