When I saw this work last year, I ended my review of the novel and ballet by saying that if the San Francisco Ballet decided to repeat it again this year, I would be first in line. And so I was.
I was a bit worried that I had blown it out of proportion in my memory and would be disappointed upon returning this past Friday, but it was every bit as good as I remember. Perhaps even better. (Please see my previous post on Onegin for basic plot points and a history of the music and choreography.)
Through luck of the draw with my subscription, I ended up with almost the same four leads as last year: Yuan Yuan Tan as Tatiana, Dores André as Olga, and Jaime Garcia Castilla as Lensky. In a last-minute casting change, it turned out to be Cory Stearns, a principal with ABT, in the role of Onegin.
Stearns was an excellent addition to the cast* and really brought Onegin to the forefront, although Tan and Castilla were just as impressive as last year. Oddly enough, I didn’t remember Dores André from last year’s cast and found myself remarking that “Olga is much more impressive this time around”: So kudos to André for showing such improvement, and demonstrating that her promotion to soloist in 2012 was well earned.
The choreography by John Cranko was even more creative and cohesive than I remembered and this ballet has now shot up to the top of my favorites list. For me, it represents a pinnacle of the form, combining dramatic storytelling with incredible music and more contemporary, interesting choreography than one typically finds with story ballet. And this particular production makes great use of the stage, working with the scene changes in a creative manner.
I think my favorite parts remained the same: the corps de ballet’s flying jetés across the stage in Act I (seen at the beginning of this clip), Tatiana dreaming of Onegin in her bedroom, and Lensky’s solo before his duel, but this year the piece as a whole seemed to flow better and the work of the corps was particularly strong.
In addition to this afternoon’s matinee at 2pm, there are only three more performances of this incredible work at the War Memorial Opera House: Tuesday at 8pm, Wednesday at 7:30pm, and Thursday at 8pm. Catch it if you can.
*My only quibble with Stearns’ interpretation was that he was not as dramatic with the tearing up of the letter as he might have been. It is a crucial plot point and, although a change from the novel, I think it is important to convey the passion involved in this rejection. Note: It looks like ABT is performing this ballet in May; I highly recommend it for anyone in the New York area.