American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
New York, NY
May 15, 2013
By Carol Pardo
Copyright ©2013 by Carol Pardo
John Cranko’s "Onegin" stands or falls on the performances of its Onegin and Tatiana, and at this performance, the task, and the chance for glory, was handed to David Hallberg and Hee Seo. Seo, American Ballet Theatre’s newest principal, is also touted its newest dramatic ballerina, proving it twice here. At the end of the duel, she faced down Onegin, her spine straight, her gaze unwavering and implacable, for what seemed like minutes. And one knew at that moment—perhaps an act too soon—that she would reject Onegin in the end. When that moment finally arrived during the final pas de deux, she needed only one gesture of the arms, reaching toward the heavens as if seeking divine guidance, to convey the conflict between adolescent passion rekindled and the call of duty, respect, affection and contentment.
Olga and Lensky, young lovers who provide a contrast to and catalyst for Tatiana and Onegin, were danced by Yuriko Kajiya and Joseph Gorak. Kajiya can do anything; she has the technique to explore every possible facet of Olga’s character. Gorak has the line to convey Lensky’s youth and the purity of purpose that eventually kills him.Any cast must overcome the sets and costumes, new to ABT last year, by Santo Loquasto. The performers all but drown in a sea of fussy and distracting patterned fabrics, while the sets often look barren and shabby; Prince Gremin should take better care of his palace than this.
The libretto, condensed from Pushkin’s novel in verse is danceable; the score, chiefly piano pieces by Tchaikovsky arranged and orchestrated by Kurt Heinze Stoltz is tuneful and laced with catchy rhythms that stick in the mind after the curtain comes down. But Cranko’s choreography, thin to the point of gruel, lacks the depth, texture and rhythmic variety to carry an evening on its own.
Yet the ballet gives the dancers performing Onegin and Tatiana the chance to exhibit their dance acting chops; indeed it obliges them to do so. At this point, all four principals have established points of departure for their characters. Fleshed out, delivered with confidence and conviction, they will, be able to deliver an "Onegin" that conveys a passion that sweeps all before it.