After 14 Years, Onegin Takes The Stage Once Again With The Boston Ballet

Posted February 25, 2016 by Cheryl Fenton in Downtown Crossing
This heated romance ballet is showing at the Boston Opera House. Photo courtesy of Boston Ballet.

If you’re looking for a passionate love story filled with romance and despair, Onegin is the One. This back and forth game of unrequited love is enough to make your head spin and your heart hurt. Because, let’s face it, we’ve all been there. Girl loves boy. He says no. He changes his mind, but it’s too late. She loves another. Ouch.

South African born ballet dancer and world-renowned choreographer John Cranko’s emotionally haunting love story Onegin returns to the Boston Ballet after a super long hiatus (think 14 years) for a February 25 to March 6 run at the Boston Opera House. This tale of unrequited passion is based on Russian poet Alexander Pushkin’s popular 19th century verse-novel, but you might also remember Ralph Fiennes and Liv Tyler giving it a go in the eponymous ’99 motion picture drama.

Heated romance-meets-suspenseful melodrama in this story set in opulent 19th century Empire period St. Petersburg, Russia. It is the tale of Tatiana, an innocent country girl, who falls in love with Eugene Onegin, a cynical Russian aristocrat. Romantic fantasies sweep Tatiana away as she declares her love in an impassioned letter. Surrounded by the torn shreds of her written plea, her naive feelings are mocked. Fast forward years later, and she gets hers. They meet again – Tatiana as a faithful, elegant married woman, Onegin as a desperate man longing for her affection.

Onegin-Boston-Ballet

Together, music and choreography weave dancers through various scenes. Photo courtesy of Boston Ballet

Just as Onegin eventually returns to Tatiana, so the production returns to the Boston Ballet. With its last performance of the production in 2002, Christine Temin from The Boston Globe celebrated it as “the finest full-length work Boston Ballet [had] performed in its 39-year history.”

Ever since its 1965 premiere with the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany, Onegin has been celebrated for taking the romantic world of Pushkin’s poetry and delivering it through dance. As the renowned Boston Ballet became the first American company to perform Onegin in 1994, the 2016 season’s production comes courtesy of a collaboration with the Dutch National Ballet. You can thank frequent Cranko collaborator Elisabeth Dalton for the stunning set and exquisite costume design, while Agneta Stjernlöf- Valcu and Victor Valcu stage the ballet under the supervision of Reid Anderson, Stuttgart Ballet’s Artistic Director. Of course there’s the score masterfully arranged by Stuttgart conductor Kurt Heinz-Stolze and performed by Boston Ballet Orchestra to create an intensely dramatic atmosphere.

Although Onegin is inspired by the popular opera Eugene Onegin by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – the epitome of passionate composers – it doesn’t contain a note from the actual opera itself. Cranko instead asked Heinz-Stolze to arrange an entirely new score that would capture the spirit of Tchaikovsky’s opera. Heinz-Stolze chose pieces from the master composer (specifically from Tchaikovsky’s Compositions for Piano along with excerpts from the opera The Caprices of Oxana) that are perfectly crafted to show all the emotions the couple feels – the willingness to let love go and then the frantic need to have it back.

The Boston Opera House is located at 539 Washington Street. Performances are 7:30pm on February 25 to 27 and March 3 to 5; and 1pm on February 27 to 28 and March 5 to 6. Tickets can be purchased at bostonballet.com.