Onegin, with Bonelli and Morera, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, January 2013

After John Cranko worked on the choreography for Tchaikovsky’s opera he wanted to turn the story into a ballet, which he later did in Stuttgart. Apparently he intended to use music from the opera, but the Stuttgart Ballet commissioned a score by Kurt-Heinz Stolze, using alternative music by Tchaikovsky. The resulting creation is rather different from the opera, which Covent Garden will perform in a couple of weeks’ time.

Morera and Bonelli/ Bill Cooper

Morera and Bonelli in Act I

Onegin here is a less nuanced character than the one based more firmly on Pushkin’s original in the opera. Here in the ballet he tears up Tatiana’s letter in Act II when she refuses to take it back, and his flirtation with Olga is cruel rather than showing her fiancé and his friend Lensky what a silly vacuous girl she is. But the choreography is glorious and the poetic justice of Tatiana tearing up Onegin’s letter at the end of Act III is very effective.

Within this context, Federico Bonelli gave a fine portrayal of Onegin, showing coolness rather than anger as he rips up the letter, and avoiding an excess of nastiness as he dances with Olga at the Act II party. The main character in the ballet however is Tatiana, and Laura Morera showed a lovely dreaminess in Act I particularly in her pas-de-deux with the imaginary Onegin who appears through the mirror, followed by emotional wildness in Act II after Onegin dances with Olga, and serenity in Act III as her pas-de-deux with her husband Prince Gremin flowed with life and joy. Gary Avis as Gremin was superb, his fine stage presence at the party turning to a beautiful expression of love for Tatiana in their duet together, and perplexed concern with what bothers her later in her boudoir. Bonelli, who has shown admirable angst at Gremin’s party when he realises who Gremin’s wife really is, then comes in to face Morera, and their pas-de-deux was quite rightly the high point of the evening. Finally she rejects him with a fine mixture of assertiveness and regret.

Morera and Bonelli in Act III, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

Morera and Bonelli in Act III, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

Avis, Morera, and Bonelli brought the performance to a glorious conclusion in Act III, while Yuhui Choe as Olga was sheer delight, and after an uncertain start in Act I, Nehemiah Kish as Lensky came into his own in Act II showing excellent anger and forcefulness in challenging Onegin to a duel.

Lovely work from the whole company, and Dominic Grier in the orchestra pit gave an excellent account of the score. The designs by Jürgen Rose, based on the Stuttgart Ballet originals from 1969 are wonderful, and I shall report again tomorrow after seeing a different cast this evening.

Performances with various casts continue until February 8 — for details click here.

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