The Stuttgart Ballet's "Onegin" at The Orange County Performing Arts Center is one of the most powerful and emotional ballets I've ever seen. The music is by Tchaikovsky, arranged and orchestrated by Kurt-Heinz Stolze. Juergen Rose's sets and costumes are rich and lavish, while John Cranko's choreography is absolutely delicious. The partnering is especially smooth with Olga and Lensky, Tatiana and Onegin, and the cast in general; as the characters move with exceptional unity.

We open in an idyllic garden. There's a big stone house, trees, and overhanging vines framing the stage. The action focuses on Olga, who is joined by eight girls while Tatiana reads in the background. Onegin enters and leads her away by the arm as Olga and Lensky do an enchanting pas de deux. He's remarkably fluid as he jumps and scissors, while she floats en pointe across the stage. She falls into his arms, he lifts her as she kicks her leg over her head, out and traces circles in the air.

Tatiana is shy and unsure of herself with the worldly Onegin. He glides smoothly as he lifts her and elegantly spins, twirls, and jumps while she falls in love. Cranko's choreography for Onegin is very feminine in a lot of the spins and twirls, but is mixed with extreme bursts of power. It's very unusual, and very elegant, and beautiful. Eight couples do full speed running leaps across the stage, off stage, then slicing diagonally to the back three times in a spectacular display. The scrim comes down, Onegin walks contemplatively in front while the ensemble dance in the shadowy garden behind  it.

Tatiana's room has a high ceiling with elegant trim like 19th century gold picture frames. She falls asleep while trying to write the love letter to Onegin. As she dreams that he's in love with her, he enters through the big mirror at the back. In their wildly passionate pas de deux, she falls into his arms, melts to the floor, he kisses her neck, and lifts her high. He spins her in his arms, stretches his arms out over his head and she lays out flat on them, over him. In a final dazzling display of power, he lifts her straight up over his head by her foot, puts her down, and she awakens. She finishes the letter and gives it to her nurse to deliver.

Act 2 opens in the high ceilinged ballroom with lace curtains. As the ensemble frolics at Tatiana's party, she is off in a corner. Onegin dances with her, but is aloof. He's all in black throughout the entire ballet, and he sits at a black table playing solitaire in a corner. Olga and Lensky fly around the room with the ensemble as Tatiana tentatively eyes Onegin. When they leave, he puts his arms around her and tears up the letter.

Onegin and Olga dance among the ensemble. Lensky tries to cut in, but Onegin won't let him, and Olga admonishes him. She teases him as she recklessly prances around the room with Onegin, who lifts her high triumphantly. The furious Lensky throws down the challenge for the duel.

Onegin walks in front of the scrim, spotlighted, while Lensky is in the shadows behind. Tall, gnarled windswept trees stretch their bare branches to the cold violet sky. Lensky does a cold ominous solo. He kicks his legs straight out, leaps, stretches, and spins. He slides to the ground, gets up, crosses his legs behind him, and gracefully grinds and twists forlornly to the back. Olga and Tatiana pull him one way, then the other. They try to get him to reconcile as he lifts them in a pas de trois. Onegin tries to reconcile, but Lensky slaps him. They each lift the girls as Onegin spins and the tension builds to a fever pitch. Lensky gives Olga a long kiss. He and Onegin go the back behind a scrim, and Lensky is shot and killed as Olga lies motionless. Onegin walks back to the front of the stage where Tatiana stares at him accusingly as he crumbles to the floor.

The ensemble in the grand ballroom at Prince Gremin's is spectacular. There are lifts, jumps, and so much going on that I couldn't follow it all in one sitting. Onegin has returned. Sadness pervades the atmosphere as he recognizes Tatiana, and pairs off with six girls. Tatiana's married to Gremin and they do a pas de deux. She's lighter than air as she lies back over his head. Onegin is crushed as he looks on.

Back in her room, Tatiana's distraught as Gremin is leaving. She begs him to stay and pulls him back. He lifts and spins her, then goes. Onegin rushes in and falls pleading at her feet. They remember. The tempo increases along with the passionate lifts and twirls and she falls back in his arms. It's standoffish, though, not the wild abandon of reckless love like in Act 2. It's passionate, but disjointed. She rips up his letter and orders him out. Then she chases after him as the curtain falls.

This was tremendous dancing throughout. Ivan Cavallari and Sonia Santiago dripped passion as Onegin and Tatiana. They moved as one in her dream, but were always just a little out of whack in their real world. Their love was not meant to be. Elena Tentshikova and Robert Tewsley as Olga and Lensky flowed like a river. Their love was true love and this was one of the smoothest, most graceful, and unified partnerships I've ever seen. The male choreography especially was outstanding. It was smooth and almost feminine, but powerful and athletic. This is the first ballet by John Cranko that I've ever seen, and I want to see more.

The music was by Tchaikovsky, but I'm not sure what. I picked up snippets from "Swan Lake" toward the end, and I believe, a bit from "Pique Dame" in the final bedroom scene. It was arranged by Kurt-Heinz Stoltze, and I guess only he knows for sure. James Tuggle led the Pacific Symphony Orchestra in this stunning production of "Onegin" by The Stuttgart Ballet at The Orange County Center for the Performing Arts.



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