Onegin: Ballet Review

When first invited to the Boston Opera House to see Onegin, I was a bit hesitant. It’s one thing to go see a ballet and another to write about a ballet. I had only written a ballet review once before, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was any good. I had not gone to see a real ballet since I was in middle school and I thought I was not going to be able to relate to it or have any idea about what to write, until I did a little research. When I saw that the ballet being performed was based on Alexander Pushkin’s narrative poem Eugene Onegin, I knew I was capable of writing a ballet review, even if it was a ballet review written by an amateur ballet critic, it would still be written by an aspiring poet. John Cranko’s Onegin is the classic romantic tale of an unrequited love — a young girl Tatiana, and a brooding aristocrat, Onegin. A short interaction leads to a one-sided and unattainable to which Tatiana falls victim. Years later, their paths cross again and this time it is Onegin who yearns for his love to be reciprocated. However, it is too late. Tatiana has grown into a woman who knows how to channel the pain of her past and use it as strength.

Onegin transported me into a fairy tale-like realm, where it seemed like everything else melted away and it was only Tatiana and Onegin that lit up the stage. Tatiana, played by Petra Conti angelically glided across the stage in spite of how simple or difficult the scene’s choreography was. In just a few scenes, Tatiana became the embodiment of young love — the infatuation, the desire, the inevitability, and the heartbreak all came to life through movement. Onegin and Tatiana moved together like magnets, creating a dialogue that left no emotion unknown. Her naive expectations of love and his cold dismissal opens up old wounds in the audience. It was as if she was the light and he was the dark. Although their light and sentimental movements evoked a spark, the flame was not there until that last scene, where Onegin comes out from his forlorn and gloomy state and really takes on the role of the mournful lover.

For most members of the audience, the main reason to attend a ballet like this one is to awaken a romance. It does not necessarily need to be a romance between two people, but perhaps a romance between dance and music, or dance and dialogue. And this would probably not be possible without John Cranko’s incorporation of Tchaikovsky’s music. His music does not accompany Onegin, but, instead it is what evokes the emotions, tones, and dialogues of the ballet. Without it, Tatiana’s adoration and disappointment of Onegin would not resonate with all in attendance. The music would not charm nor inspire the audience into feeling or believing. It is the perfect amalgamation of gentle melodies with sad and suspenseful undertone that mimic the delicate poise of Tatiana. Poetry seeps through each note, and like poetry, the Tchaikovsky’s composition is left to individual interpretation.

Two other elements of Onegin that capture the elegance of the ballet are Elisabeth Dalton’s costume and the scene design. Though simple, Dalton’s scenic designs add on to the warmth and the glow that Tatiana is experiencing with her first amorous encounter. And when this is paired with the nontraditional costumes (long, flowy dresses) that seem to have florals as their main focus, Tatiana’s emotional awakening is exposed. Dalton is able to embody Tatiana’s blooming into a young woman who is exploring her desires and fantasies through the progression of light and spring-like colors, to darker and richer colors in her costume and scene design.

Onegin transformed my opinion of romance ballets and allowed me to reflect on old emotions. It brought out the raw and pure feelings that many of us usually try to forget. I was enchanted by the dream-like experience of Onegin, and even though it recreates a classical romance, the beautiful choreography, music, and design makes it all worth the while.

Onegin runs from February 25 - March 6. Student rush tickets are available 2 hours before the show for a $25 at the Boston Opera House Box Office. (cash only), but make sure to bring a valid student ID.

Photo by Antonio Figueroa

A&EEsther Blanco