'Onegin' at the ballet

For classical ballet lovers anxiously anticipating Onegin's return to the stage, the wait is over.

ballet 88 (photo credit: )
ballet 88
(photo credit: )
For classical ballet lovers anxiously anticipating Onegin's return to the stage, the wait is over. Next weekend, under the exacting tutelage of Berta Yampolsky and Hillel Markman, the Israel Ballet brings choreographer John Cranko's Onegin back to the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center Opera House for the fifth time. Featuring a score by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, scenery by Pier Luigi Samaritani and costumes by Roberta Guidi di Bagno, Onegin is considered by many critics the company's richest and most impressive production. International soloists Natalia Toriashvili of the Saint Petersburg Ballet and Valtin Kaptira of the International Ballet in Holland will fill the lead roles as Tatiana and Onegin, supported by 43 other dancers. "This is a beautiful, epic production," says Yampolsky. "To love and be rejected is one of the saddest human stories, and Pushkin was writing from his own life experience, which makes the scenes even more poignant." Yampolsky, who has choreographed over 30 ballets for the Israel Ballet since its inception in 1967, says that the lighting, costumes and d cor in this production highlight the dramatic movements of the dancers and breathe life into the tragic romance. Originally choreographed for the Stuttgart Ballet by Cranko in 1965, the story is adapted from Aleksandr Pushkin's famous verse novel, Eugene Onegin. The ballet is divided into three different dance styles that reflect the progression of the narrative - a youthful peasant dance, a bourgeois party and an elegant St. Petersburg ball. Tatiana, her sister Olga, Lensky and Onegin constitute the four central characters. In the opening scenes, Lensky, Olga's fianc , introduces his soon to be sister-in-law, Tatiana, to Onegin. Alternately described as a cosmopolitan dandy and an arrogant rogue, Onegin rejects young Tatiana's advances and then dishonors her by boldly flirting with another woman in her presence. Outraged by his friend's cruelty, Lensky challenges Onegin to a duel and is killed in the ensuing battle. Unable to bear the guilt, Onegin flees his country manor and returns to life in the city. Tatiana tries to forget him by convincing herself that he never really existed. After she leaves her rural home and makes her debut in society, Tatiana changes from a plain country girl into a sophisticated, beautiful woman. She has matured to such an extent that Onegin, who meets her again by chance, fails to recognize her. He eventually realizes who she is and falls hopelessly in love with the older, married Tatiana. The tables have turned, and now it is Tatiana's turn to reject Onegin; despite still harboring feelings for him, she refuses to leave her husband. The lovers are fated to remain apart, and the sorrow of their mismatched timing is evoked by their last, heart-wrenching pas de deux. "She [Tatiana] still loved him, and you can see it in her body language, but he missed the train," says Yampolsky of the tragic finale. The strength of the soloists adds an important element to the melodrama in the narrative, and Yampolsky is confident that Toriashvili and Kaptira will dance the Soviet-style lifts and throws with grace and ease. Yampolsky and Markman first saw Onegin in Berlin, and it took many years for them to receive permission to produce it with their own company. "Not everyone can dance this ballet," Yampolsky says. "It was choregraphed for specific dancers and it takes incredible talent to do it well. The Israel Ballet was given the right to perform it because of the strength of our dancers. And as a Russian dancer, Toriashvili grew up with Onegin and understands the complexity and depth of Tatiana's character. That comes through in her performance." The Israel Ballet will perform Onegin at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center Opera House April 6 at 8:30 p.m., April 7 at 1:00 p.m., and April 8 at 8:30 p.m. For tickets, call (03) 692-7777.