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Friday, 14 December, 2001, 14:30 GMT
Royal Ballet's moving Onegin
Tamara Rojo and Adam Cooper as Tatiana and Onegin (Robert Tewsley and Mara Galeazzi performed on review night)
Tamara Rojo and Adam Cooper as Tatiana and Onegin
By BBC News Online's Steve Schifferes

The Royal Ballet has staged a stunning revival of the classic John Cranko ballet Onegin to open its winter season, the first under its new director, Australian Ross Stretton.

Onegin - based on the famous poem by Pushkin - traces the story of a bored Russian aristocrat who rejects the advances of a young girl, Tatiana, in favour of a flirtation with her sister Olga, which leads to a fatal duel with her fiancÚ Lensky.

Years later, he spies her in a ball in St Petersburg, now married and beautiful, and hopelessly desires her despite her loyalty to her new husband, Prince Gremin.

The ballet calls for the most expressive acting as well as dancing, as Cranko turns up the emotions in each scene, climaxing in the final pas de deux between Onegin and Tatiana.

Tamara Rojo and Christopher Saunders
Rojo and Saunders: Depth of talent
Emotions range from passion to rejection to regret as the aristocrat tries to entice Tatiana back under his spell.

Enticing

The role of Tatiana, created for the great Brazilian ballerina Marcia Haydee, has been a great success for the young Romanian dancer Alina Cojocaru at the Royal Ballet this year.

But, showing the depth of the Royal Ballet's company, it was beautifully danced by first soloist Mara Galeazzi, while the frivolous Olga was played in perfect character by the young Argentinean soloist Marianela Nunez.

Also brilliantly played was the role of Onegin, with Robert Tewsley recreating his version for the Stuttgart Ballet, where the ballet originated.

His effortless lifts and disdainful manner in the second act dream scene with Tatiana - when she imagines his love through a mirror - captured the role of romantic villain expertly.

Tamara Roja (pictured) played Tatiana initially but soloist Mara Galeazzi had the role in this production
Tamara Roja (pictured) played Tatiana initially
Adam Cooper - a former Royal Ballet star famous for his Matthew Bourne version of Swan Lake - played the cameo role of Prince Gremin, and has also been a success as Onegin in earlier performances.

In some ways it is surprising that the Royal Ballet has never staged Onegin before.

It is one of the greatest narrative ballets of this century, choreographed by one of the greatest choreographers the Royal Ballet never had.

Revival season

John Cranko, born in South Africa, joined the Sadler's Wells ballet under Dame Ninette de Valois, and made several ballets in the UK before moving to the Stuttgart Ballet in 1961.

There he created some of his greatest works, including Taming of Shrew, and promoted dancers like Haydee and Richard Cragun.

Cranko died tragically at 45, before he could (perhaps) return to the UK.

In some ways the current production is perhaps a little too faithful to Cranko's original, using the same set and costumes, and staged with the help of the current Stuttgart director Reid Anderson.

It may be that it took another outsider - the first Australian director of the Royal Ballet - to bring the production to London.

And hopefully it may lead to the welcome return of the big story ballets - including some of the Royal Ballet's own.

Onegin is playing at the Royal Opera House, London.

See also:

19 Nov 99 | Entertainment
A Fiennes family affair
05 Aug 01 | UK
Ballet ends Royal birthday
08 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Ballet world pays tribute to Madam
08 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Royal Ballet founder dies
16 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Royal Ballet seeks Billy Elliots
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