Onegin (Cranko)

Onegin is a ballet created by John Cranko for the Stuttgart Ballet, premiered on 13 April 1965 at Staatstheater Stuttgart. The ballet was based on Alexander Pushkin's 1825-1832 novel Eugene Onegin, to music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and arrangements by Kurt-Heinz Stolze. The ballet had since been in the repertoires of National Ballet of Canada, American Ballet Theatre and The Royal Ballet.[1][2]

Onegin 03.jpg
Roberta Marquez and Thiago Soares at the curtain call of Onegin
ChoreographerJohn Cranko
MusicPyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky arrangements by Kurt-Heinz Stolze
Based onEugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin
Premiere13 April 1965[1]
Staatstheater Stuttgart
Original ballet companyStuttgart Ballet
Setting19th-century Russia

Background and productionEdit

Cranko first discovered Alexander Pushkin's verse-novel Eugene Onegin when he choreographed the dances for Tchaikovsky's opera of the same name in 1952. He first proposed a ballet based on Pushkin's story to the Royal Opera House board in the 1960s, but it was turned down, and he pursued the idea when he moved to Stuttgart. The Stuttgart Ballet premiered the work in 1965. The Royal Ballet did not present the work until 2001.[3] The choreography for his ballet includes a wide range of styles, including folk, modern, ballroom and acrobatic. The music takes inspiration from the composer he worked with when he was first introduced to the story – Kurt-Heinz Stolze arranged music by Tchaikovsky, which came principally from his piano works rather than his orchestral works, to accompany the dancers.[4][n 1] The original principals were Marcia Haydée as Tatiana, Ray Barra as Onegin, Egon Madsen as Lensky and Ana Cardus as Olga.[6]

Between 1965 and 1967 Cranko revised Onegin several times. His scenario originally ended with Tatiana kissing her children goodnight, which he decided lessened the drama of her final encounter with Onegin. Cranko also deleted the prologue, in which Onegin was seen at his uncle's deathbed. The standard version of the ballet was first performed by the Stuttgart company in October 1967.[5]

Onegin was added to The Australian Ballet's repertoire in 1976, first performed by Marilyn Rowe and John Meehan.[7] Some dancers are coached by Haydée.[8]The National Ballet of Canada first performed Onegin in 1984 in Toronto, Veronica Tennant and Luc Amyot were originally scheduled to star in the National Ballet of Canada premiere, but withdrew due to injuries. Sabina Allemann and Frank Augustyn replaced them.[9] The production was staged by then Stuttgart Ballet principal dancer Reid Anderson. Anderson himself performed in with the National Ballet alongside Karen Kain the following year.[10]

The American Ballet Theatre debuted Onegin in 2001 at the Metropolitan Opera House, Tatiana and Onegin are danced by Julie Kent and Robert Hill . Later that year, The Royal Ballet made their company premiere, with Tamara Rojo and Adam Cooper as the lead roles. Both productions are staged by Anderson and choreologist Jane Bourne.[1][11] The Paris Opera Ballet first performed Onegin in 2009, starring Hervé Moreau and Isabelle Ciaravola. Both Ciaravola and Mathias Heymann, who played Lensky, were named étoile at the curtain call of that performance.[12]

As the sets and costumes became fragile, the National Ballet invited Santo Loquasto to redesign the production, which debuted in 2010.[13] ABT started using Loquasto's design in 2012.[1] Other companies that had danced Onegin include Houston Ballet, Boston Ballet, Hamburg Ballet, Berlin State Ballet and La Scala Theatre Ballet.[14]


Act 1

Madame Larina's garden

In the garden, Madame Larina, her daughters Olga and Tatiana, and the nurse are finishing party dresses and discussing Tatiana's upcoming birthday celebrations. They think about the future, and the local girls play an old folk game: whoever looks into the mirror will see her beloved. Lensky, a young poet engaged to Olga, arrives with a friend from Saint Petersburg. He introduces Eugene Onegin, who has come to the country to see if it can offer him any distraction from city life. Tatiana falls in love with the handsome stranger, who seems so different from the country people she knows, while Onegin only sees a naive, romantic girl.

Tatiana's bedroom

That night, Tatiana dreams of Onegin, her first love. She writes him a passionate love letter, which she asks her nurse to deliver.

Act 2

Tatiana's birthday

The local gentry have all arrived to celebrate Tatiana's birthday. Onegin finds the company boring and is struggling to be polite. He is also annoyed by Tatiana's letter, which he thinks is just an outburst of adolescent love. He seeks Tatiana out and tears up her letter, telling her that he cannot love her. Prince Gremin, a distant relative of Tatiana who is in love with her, appears. Madame Larina hopes they will make a good match, but Tatiana hardly notices him as she is so distressed. Onegin decides to provoke Lensky by flirting with Olga, hoping it will relieve his boredom. Olga joins in with the joke, but Lensky takes it seriously and challenges Onegin to a duel.

The duel

Tatiana and Olga try to reason with Lensky but he insists the duel must go ahead. Onegin kills his friend.

Act 3

St Petersburg

Years later, Onegin returns to St. Petersburg after travelling the world. He goes to a ball at the palace of Prince Gremin. Onegin is surprised when he recognises the beautiful Princess Tatiana as the country girl he once turned away. He realises how much he lost through his previous actions.

Tatiana's boudoir

Onegin writes to Tatiana and reveals his love. He asks to see her but she does not wish to see him. She pleads with her husband not to leave her alone that evening. Onegin comes and declares his love for her. Tatiana feels Onegin's change of heart has come too late. And even if she still loves him she has now a new life with Prince Gremin and also after having killed Lensky she would never want Onegin again. She tears up his letter and orders him to leave her forever.[15]


Role World premiere (1965)[1] The Australian Ballet premiere (1976)[7] National Ballet of Canada premiere (1984)[n 2][9] American Ballet Theatre premiere (2001)[1] The Royal Ballet premiere (2001)[2] Paris Opera Ballet premiere (2009)[16] National Ballet of Canada new production premiere (2010)[1] 2017 DVD[17]
Tatiana Marcia Haydée Marilyn Rowe Sabina Allemann Julie Kent Tamara Rojo Isabelle Ciaravola Xiao Nan Yu Alicia Amatriain
Onegin Ray Barra John Meehan Frank Augustyn Robert Hill Adam Cooper Hervé Moreau Jiří Jelínek Friedemann Vogel
Lensky Egon Madsen Kelvin Coe Raymond Smith Vladimir Malakhov Ethan Stiefel Mathias Heymann Guillaume Côté David Moore
Olga Ana Cardus Maria Lang Cynthia Lucas Maria Riccetto Alina Cojocaru Myriam Ould-Braham Heather Ogden Elisa Badenes


After the Stuttgart premiere the ballet critic of The Times rated the piece enjoyable but not wholly successful. He found the score unmemorable and the characters sketchy: "Solitary introverts are difficult to depict in dancing".[6] By 1974, when the Stuttgart company presented the piece at Covent Garden shortly after Cranko's death, the critic John Percival reassessed the work much more favourably, praising both the music and the narrative expertise of the choreography.[18] The work has continued to divide critical opinion. In 2004 The Independent called it "a weak piece [missing] the story's depth, its psychological understanding".[19] Three years later the critic in The Sunday Times found that the work's "acutely expressive choreography ... never fails to enthral... Cranko's handling of the Pushkin story as dance is masterly."[20] Other comments have included "compelling but dramatically flawed",[21] "magnificent ... a neck-pricking five-star triumph,[22] "stodgily operatic"[23] and "a sad, beautiful ballet, a true romance with four finely drawn leading characters and a grown-up poignance rarely found."[24]

Music scoreEdit

For the music score to Onegin, Cranko invited German musician and conductor Kurt-Heinz Stolze (then the Kapellmeister for Stuttgart Ballet) to arrange and orchestrate a compilation of solo piano and orchestral pieces from different compositions by Tchaikovsky. Stolze used selections from five solo piano opuses (from The Seasons, Op. 37a, Op. 19, and Op. 72), selections from the opera Cherevichki, Op. 9 (as a main musical theme for Tatiana and Onegin), the symphonic fantasy Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32, the symphonic ballad The Voyevoda, Op. 3, a duet from the incomplete opera Romeo and Juliet, and Impromptu from Two Piano Pieces, Op. 1.


In 2017, Stuttgart Ballet released a DVD, featuring Alicia Amatriain as Tatiana, Friedemann Vogel as Onegin, David Moore as Lensky and Elisa Badenes as Olga, Marcia Haydée, who originated the role of Tatiana, appeared as Tatiana's and Olga's nurse.[17] In light of the impact of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic on the performing arts, Stuttgart Ballet released the recording online.[25]

Notes and referencesEdit


  1. ^ The Tchaikovsky works on which Stolze drew for the score were The Seasons, Op. 37, Nocturne No. 4, Op. 19, Three pieces for piano, Op. 9, Six Pieces for piano, Op. 19, Six Pieces for piano, Op. 51, 18 Pieces for piano, Op. 72, the opera Cherevichki, Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32, and the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture.[5]
  2. ^ Veronica Tennant and Luc Amyot were originally scheduled to star in the National Ballet of Canada premiere, but withdrew due to injuries. Sabina Allemann and Frank Augustyn replaced them.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Onegin". American Ballet Theatre.
  2. ^ a b "Onegin - 22 November 2001 Evening". Royal Opera House Collections Online.
  3. ^ Crane, Debra. "A trial of broken arts", The Times, 20 November 2001
  4. ^ "Onegin", Royal Opera House, revived 17 March 2015
  5. ^ a b "Onegin", The Ballet Bag, retrieved 19 March 2015
  6. ^ a b "Cranko ballet on Eugene Onegin", The Times, 7 June 1965, p. 4
  7. ^ a b "Onegin (Australian context)". Trove. 1 January 2010.
  8. ^ "Why Fiona Tonkin Loves Onegin". The Australian Ballet. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Onegin". National Ballet of Canada. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  10. ^ "Onegin". National Ballet of Canada.
  11. ^ "Onegin (2001)". Royal Opera House Collections Online. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  12. ^ "Onéguine". MémOpéera.
  13. ^ "Onegin". National Ballet of Canada.
  14. ^ "Onegin". The Ballet Bag. 17 September 2010.
  15. ^ "Synopsis", Programme booklet for Onegin, Royal Opera House 2014–15 season, pp. 6–9
  16. ^ "Onéguine". MémOpéera.
  17. ^ a b "Cranko, J.: Onegin [Ballet] (Stuttgart Ballet, 2017) (NTSC)".
  18. ^ Percival, John. "Cranko's inspiration". The Times, 25 June 1974, p. 13
  19. ^ Anderson, Zoe. "Saved by the execution", The Independent, 1 June 2004
  20. ^ Dougill, David. "The peak of passion", The Sunday Times, 27 March 2007
  21. ^ Jennings, Luke. "That's one lean, mean Onegin",The Observer, 27 January 2013
  22. ^ Brown, Ismene. "Rojo leads a five-star triumph", The Daily Telegraph, 24 November 2001
  23. ^ Anderson, Zoe. "Lukewarm love in a cold climate", The Independent, 5 October 2010
  24. ^ Brown, Ismene. "Rapture in 19th-century Russia", The Daily Telegraph, 28 may 2004
  25. ^ "Stuttgart Ballet @Home". Stuttgart Ballet. Archived from the original on 1 May 2020.