Onegin, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, September 2010

One loves while the other turns away — it can go in either direction, and here it goes in both.

Cojocaru and Kobborg in the final pas-de-deux

One way in Act I, and the reverse in Act III, where Tatiana finally turns away from Onegin, tearing up his letter, just as he originally tore up hers. This letter tearing is part of John Cranko’s adaptation of Pushkin’s original story, and works well as long as it’s not over-dramatised on stage. Here, Johan Kobborg and Alina Cojocaru effected these rejections superbly, and their dancing showed a subtle tension between them, without ever over-reaching into unnecessary pathos. The pas-de-deux of the dream sequence in Act I, when Tatiana writes her letter and falls asleep, was danced with magical abandon, and her balance was perfect as he turned away from her at the end. And their final pas-de-deux in Act III was a wonderful mixture of tension and romantic yearning.

Steven McRae was outstanding in Lensky’s solo before the duel, his lassitude creating a poignant image of a man who has taken a fatally wrong turning. And Akane Takada portrayed the pretty, but empty-headed Olga to perfection. She played well to Kobborg’s playfully haughty intervention in Act I, and he portrayed the presence and aloofness we expect of Onegin. Bennet Gartside was an admirable Prince Gremin, and a fine partner for Cojocaru in the ball scene of Act III — their pas-de-deux was beautifully done. The five principals were well supported by the corps, who were full of vivacity, and the girls’ jetés across the diagonal in Act I, supported by their partners, were executed with abundant joy and energy.

Alina Cojocaru and Bennet Gartside in the Act III ball scene

John Cranko’s choreography is a delight . . . creative, always appropriate to the drama, and this fine ballet is worth seeing again and again. The music by Kurt-Heinz Stolze — cleverly based on Tchaikovsky without taking anything from his opera on the same story — was conducted here by Valeriy Ovsyanikov. This was an excellent start to the season, and further performances are scheduled for October 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 20, 25 with four different casts, one of which I shall report on at the end of next week

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