Many balletomanes (rightly) worship “Onegin” but few of them have read the eponymous novel by Pushkin, a founding father of modern literature in Russia. Yet, the book and ballet are closely intertwined, both in text and steps. Prey to mal du siècle, Onegin is said to cast “a mournful gaze” on the “dreary stage” at a ballet performance. He yawns and leaves. In hindsight, isn’t it ironic, given that Cranko’s masterpiece has the opposite effect on the audience? The ballet arouses passions, whether positive or negative. Some dismiss it as an offence to the inner realm of Pushkin and Tchaikovsky—Balanchine was one of those staunch critics—but the choreo-drama “Onegin” is anything but boring.
Mathieu Ganio and Ludmila Pagliero in ”Onegin" by John Cranko. Photograph by Julien Benhamou/Paris Opera Ballet