IMPRESSIONS OF: ABT ( and Pauline Koner)
|Pauline Koner in José Limon’s La Malinche. Photo @ Walter Strate.|
The Moor’s Pavane, presented as a revival last fall by American Ballet Theatre at New York City Center, is unfortunately not part of the company’s repertoire during its spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House. Thankfully there is another ballet to fill the expressive non-farcical void. John Cranko’s Onegin is based on the epic poem by Alexander Pushkin and the role of Tatiana is a meaty one that requires a performer of Koner’s dramatic acuity to hold the ballet together. The great Marcia Haydée created the role in Stuttgart in 1965, and since then it has been a favorite for some of the most important ballerinas. The famed London Festival Ballet’s production in the 1980’s had an especially impressive line-up when Haydée reprised the role and Eva Evdokimova, Natalia Makarova, Ekaterina Maximova, and Lynn Seymour all gave celebrated interpretations. Balletomanes will be excited to know that Onegin enters the Bolshoi’s repertoire this summer and that Paris Opera Ballet’s finest Tatiana, Isabelle Ciaravola, will give her farewell performance at Palais Garnier next March in the role that made her an étoile.
The story is simplified. Tatiana, a bookish girl falls in love with a visitor, the suave and snooty Onegin. He does not take her seriously, tears up her love letter and hands it back to her, then bored out of his mind, flirts with his friend Lensky’s heartthrob, the sprightly Olga. Lensky becomes enraged, moans, duels and dies. Onegin leaves. Tatiana marries a man of means, and emerges an elegant and considerably happy lady. One day Onegin returns, sees what a catch Tatiana would have been and declares his love for her. Tatiana, still in love with him after all these years, does the proper thing and shows him the door. Tears. Curtain.
|Marcia Haydée and Ray Barra in John Cranko’s Onegin. ©Photo is by Alo Storz.|
There is much to love in this ballet, especially the two main pas de deux between Tatiana and Onegin; one a dream, in which Tatania sheds her girlishness to become a woman and the final one where the grown-up Tatania rejects the man who rebuffed her earlier. Both duets challenge the dancers in their use of sweeping overhead lifts and falls to the ground. Here Cranko shows wondrous invention. And, there is a healthy dose of traveling all around the stage space. Yet as much as I delight in the development of character and passion in the two pas de deux, I am also captivated by the respect and care in yet another pas de deux, the dance for Tatiana and her husband. In juxtaposition to the relationship with Onegin, this union is one of dignity expressed in upright dancing, more vertical lifts and consequently a restraint in the use of space. The husband named Gremin, in both opera and the ballet, is portrayed (by Roman Zhurbin and James Whiteside respectively) to possess a noble heart. It is this virtue that connects Tatiana to him.
|Polina Semionova and David Hallberg in Onegin. Photo © Marty Sohl.
Lensky’s solo before the deathly duel is an introspective marvel. Danced with utmost grace by Joseph Gorak and with equal dramatic effect by Jared Matthews in Monday’s cast, it makes the death of this character deeply upsetting. Why did he die? Because the ballet/opera/poem is called Onegin, of course,even though in the real scheme of action the ballet perhaps should have been called Tatiana.
|Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes in Onegin. Photo: Gene Schiavone.|
Cranko presents another idiosyncrasy, which sadly amounts to idiocy: the peasants dance with Lensky and Olga! If they could have “danced altogether” there would have been no need for the Revolution of 1917. By then, of course, it was too late for dancing. Goofy gestures for the dotty elders in the ballroom scene might have been entertaining at one point, but are overdone and cringe inducing. And, Russian ladies who end a dance bowing to their men while half- sitting, half- kneeling on the floor were unthinkable until the word oligarch entered our consciousness. (As a side note: Boris Eifman’s modern take on the story has his Tatiana marry an oligarch whom she stays with since she fears his revenge should she leave him.)
|Irina Dvorovenko takes a curtain call after her final ABT performance. Photo: Marty Sohl.|
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