San Francisco Ballet
War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
April 30th, 2016
For the past five months, the War Memorial Opera House has been filled with a glorious collection of classic and contemporary ballet. A force and display of true artistry, the 2016 season at San Francisco Ballet saw returning favorites, new commissions and three full-length narratives. Saturday night, the curtain rose on the final program of the season, the last of those story ballets, John Cranko’s three-act Onegin.
Onegin is a visual stunner, from the choreography to the costumes to the design. But the story itself is not a light or happy one. Onegin is about regret and acceptance, choices and consequences, and while there are some snippets of joy and playfulness, the narrative is heavy, to say the least.
Act I introduces the main characters to the audience – sisters Tatiana (Maria Kochetkova) and Olga (Lauren Strongin); Olga’s fiancé Lensky (Gennadi Nedvigin) and Onegin (Vitor Luiz). Romance, or hope of romance, factors significantly with these four. Olga and Lensky are engaged, and enjoy a mutual love and affection, while Tatiana becomes infatuated with a callous and indifferent Onegin. Opening night’s cast was almost the exact same group that
I saw four years back, with the exception
of Strongin. And though they certainly had less stage time, Act I really
belonged to Strongin and Nedvigin. He was a wonderful Lensky – charming and
chivalrous - and she was exactly what you want Olga to be. Sweet, innocent and
gentle, yet confident and with a sense of purpose - from the first solo’s balletés
and ballonés to the encompassing fifth position port de bras. Interesting
directional changes in the turns and daring, unexpected catches featured
heavily in their ‘courting’ pas de deux. And they led the corps in one of the most
dynamic sequences in the entire Act - a long diagonal series of supported
jetés. The corps also had some lovely folk variations, though the choreography
for the men was definitely more intriguing than that for the women.
|Lauren Strongin and Gennadi Nedvigin in|
Photo © Erik Tomasson
Extreme circumstances befall the characters in Act II. The mood begins with celebratory elation – Tatiana’s birthday. The cast enters the stage with full partnering and sprightly footwork; flowing waltz steps and grand assemblé lifts. Mid-way through, things start to go awry. Onegin rejects Tatiana, begins flirting with Olga and in the end, is challenged to a duel by Lensky. Again, it was Nedvigin’s night. His solo was full of heartbreak, distress and sorrow – arms reaching out, chest lifted to the heavens, turns that coiled one way and then the other.