Alexander Pushkin is adored in Russia, and his "Eugen Onieguin" (1830), a novel in verse, is particularly admired. Plus the fact that there is a parallel between Lenski´s death and the writer´s, both in duels for passional reasons, has given it popularity. It inspired Tchaikovsky´s best opera and one of the most attractive choreographies imagined after World War II: John Cranko´s for the Stuttgart Ballet in 1965.
Walter Erik Schäfer, then Stuttgart Opera´s Director General (Intendant), admitted the idea but with a restriction: no music from the opera could be used. So Kurt-Heinz Stolze (1926-70), pianist, harpsichordist and composer, adapted Tchaikovsky pieces from the suite "The Seasons", the opera "Cherevichki" and the tone poem "Francesca da Rimini"; he did so skillfully and in close agreement with Cranko.
Naturally, although it follows the general plot of the opera, there are changes, not only because the language of dancing is so different but also due to the inclusion of certain new ideas or the transposition of the last scene of Act I to the first of Act II. To those who know the opera well, of course they will miss such moments as Lenski´s marvelous aria but by and large the music is adequate and accompanies faithfully the choreographer´s steps.
The Romantic spirit has somehow been maintained after 135 years, and the Neoclassic refinement of Cranko´s style blends with a natural expression of deep feelings in choreography that is never showy, but by no means easy. He depìcts in sure traits the psychology of the five principals: Tatiana grows from youthful passion to disappointment, and afterwards serene love for Prince Gremin; the blasé Onieguin of the First Act becomes a traitor of friendship in the Second, and desperate lover in the Third; Olga, Tatiana´s sister, by her coquettish behavior with Onieguin brings about the drama of her fiancé´s death ; Lenski loves Olga with no limits and challenges Onieguin to the fatal duel; and the mature Gremin gives Tatiana the firm responsible love she needs.
All this is beautifully told in movement by Cranko, but he also gives us big scenes for the Corps de Ballet in each act: vital Russian peasant dance in the First, complex intermingling of old and young people in the Second, and the Polonaise in Act III. Also, some family interchanges between the sisters and the widow Madame Larina, and affectionate gestures between Tatiana and her wet nurse.
The ballet was premièred in April 1965 by Cranko´s Stuttgart Ballet, with Marcia Haydée and Ray Barra. In November 1979 I witnessed at the Colón the wonderful Stuttgart company, with the ideal Haydée and Richard Cragun, Egon Madsen and Susanne Hanke, in the lovely staging of Jürgen Rose. They came back in 1985. And in 1994 the Colón Ballet staged it with a different production, the one we saw now: Pier Luigi Samaritani, stage design; costumes, Roberta Guidi di Bagno. Two splendid couples did Tatiana and Onieguin: Alessandra Ferri and Maximiliano Guerra, Silvia Bazilis and Rául Candal (their goodbuye to the stage). It came back to the repertoire in 2011 with two Stuttgart dancers, Alicia Amatriain and Jason Reilly; and in alternate casts, Maricel de Mitri and Alejandro Parente; and Karina Olmedo and Juan Pablo Ledo. In 2012 it was again staged.
And so we come to the present revival, with the bright light of Marianela Núñez as Tatiana, paired with Parente. Alternates: Olmedo and Ledo; Nadia Muzyca and Matías Santos. Let it be said squarely: the second and last performance with Núñez and Parente showed a Colón Ballet in fine shape and in an outstanding production. True, they had Marianela, prima ballerina of the Royal Ballet, and as we know, such a position only goes to exquisite dancers of perfect technique and taste. But Marianela has a special radiance of her own, the immaterial quality of Haydée, Ferri and Amatriain: she moves the audience with each stance of her body. And she was ably partnered by Parente.
Federico Fernández, tall, lithe and poetic, was just the artist for Lenski; and Natalia Pelayo gave us a pert and agile Olga. Vagran Ambartsoumian was a solid Gremin and Virginia Licitra a charming Larina. The Corps de Ballet was disciplined and able, prepared by Agneta and Victor Valcu.
Javier Logioia Orbe completed the feast with fine conducting of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic.
For Buenos Aires Herald