Onegin, Ballet by John Cranko
John Cranko’s extraordinary, unflinchingly romantic Onegin is a ballet which the very best artists of our age aspire to perform.
An example of how great music and writing can endure, in forms unknown to their creators, Cranko set Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin’s early 19th century novel Eugene Onegin to dance, the ballet drawing its music from no less than forty six rarely heard piano pieces by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, including his piano suite, The Seasons, all orchestrated by Kurt-Heinz Stolze, as well as the Russian master's symphonic poem, Francesca da Rimini, his fantasy overture, Romeo and Juliet and extracts from his opera, Cherevichki (The Tsarina's Slippers). Intriguingly, not a single note of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin is heard in Cranko's ballet.
Born in South Africa in 1927, John Cranko rose to become Resident Choreographer of the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet School in London when still only in his early twenties. He later went on to be Director of the Stuttgart Ballet, for whom he created Onegin in 1965, and Chief Choreographer of the Munich State Opera Ballet.
The story of a young disdainful nobleman, Onegin, who initially rejects the seemingly unrefined Tatiana only to fall in love with her, years later, after her transition to life in society, provided Cranko with a narrative which, in order to convince, demands not just the highest technical skills of the dancers but an ability to capture the personalities and emotional journeys of the characters.
Cranko’s interpretation brilliantly balances the inner worlds of Onegin and Tatiana building a dramatic tension which never abates from the moment they dance as one in the gorgeous ‘dream’ pas de deux at the end of the first act through to the point in the final scene when they realise that it will be impossible to consummate their love for one another.