This spring, Boston Ballet has released a new production that is different from traditional ballets such as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. Directed by Mikko Nissinen and choreographed by John Cranko, “Onegin”` narrates the woes of unrequited love between Eugene Onegin and Tatiana. The tale begins with Onegin, a young and sophisticated aristocrat from St. Petersberg, attending Tatiana’s birthday party in rural Russia as the friend of Tatiana’s sister’s fiancé, Lensky. Upon meeting Onegin, Tatiana becomes smitten and sends him a passionate, handwritten letter expressing her love. Onegin, however, scorns Tatiana as an awkward country girl and proceeds to hurt her by tearing up her letter in front of her and flirting with her engaged sister. In effect, he angers his friend Lensky, who challenges him to a duel. Despite the sisters’ efforts to prevent the duel, Onegin unintentionally murders Lensky, throwing him into extreme self-loathing and grief. Onegin proceeds to impose self-banishment upon himself and leaves Russia.
After many years, Onegin returns to Russia and attends a ball where he discovers that Tatiana has now become a beautiful lady and has become the wife of Prince Gremin, a family friend. It is then that Onegin realizes the gravity of his error in rejecting Tatiana and attempts to bring her back through a handwritten letter begging for her forgiveness and love. In a last attempt to win her back, Onegin visits Tatiana in her lounge, where Tatiana proceeds to rip up his letter and orders him to never see her again, as she will protect her honor and remain faithful to her husband.
In the Mar. 5 matinee show, Eugene Onegin was portrayed by Paulo Arrais, Lensky by Junxiong Zhao, Prince Gremin by Matthew Slattery and Tatiana by Erica Cornejo. In particular, Erica Cornejo stood out from the cast. In Act 1 Scene II, Erica’s smooth, fluid movements complemented the emotions of lust and desire for Onegin. The difference between contemporary and classical ballet became apparent as Onegin was choreographed on the basis of contemporary ballet. The incorporation of modern dance in the arm and head movements as well as the hand placements played a significant role in the expression of emotion. In addition, the change in facial expressions resonated throughout the scene as Tatiana dreams of engaging Onegin in a passionate dance. The emotions of bliss and amazement were strongly emphasized in both Cornejo’s soft movements and facial expressions.
But Cornejo truly makes a presence in the final scene of Act III, in which Onegin visits Tatiana in her bedroom. Cornejo effectively switches between lust and restraint as Tatiana struggles to battle her girlhood feelings for Onegin against her will to remain faithful to her husband and her honor. Cornejo expresses the lust through desperate clutches and intimate physical interactions through the upper body with her partner, Paulo Arrais. Her portrayal of restraint, however, is most apparent as the agony of battling her inner feelings was so clearly shown to the audience through her facial expressions. This anguish was accompanied by the grace of the classical ballet techniques in terms of pointe.
In addition, the choice of costume was extremely well done, as the flow of the long skirts as well as the intricate design in the sleeves and torso enhanced the choreography to bring off a beautiful visual effect. In particular, the softness of the fabric of the dresses flowed effortlessly and gracefully whenever the dancers kicked up to strike poses, especially in the choreography of Act II, Scene I during Tatiana’s birthday celebration. The smoothness of each twirl and push of the arms and legs brought a certain degree of elegance to the choreography, an elegance that brought out the visual and internal beauty and emotion of the act.
Boston Ballet’s “Onegin” not only emphasized the art of contemporary ballet but it was especially successful in utilizing choreography and design to effectively translate the emotions and storyline. “Onegin” was a true work of art that represented the Boston Ballet’s devotion to detail. Not only was the choreography important, but the costumes and expressions were also important in helping to create a truly complete work of art.