Sydney Opera House
By Lynne Lancaster.
What a glorious revival of this production by The Australian Ballet! Lavish and spectacular, Onegin showcases some extraordinary choreography and brilliant dancing. The company are in fine form – an excellent way to celebrate their 50th anniversary this year.
Based on the Pushkin novel, Onegin features stunning opulent sets and costumes as designed by Jurgen Rose. The lacy dripping flowers of Act 2 are exquisite and in the ballroom scene of Act 3, the sleeves of the women’s dresses are like flowers too.
Cranko’s demanding choreography is seamless and in some of the pas de deux, in particular, there are some very difficult lifts and throws. There is lots for the corps to perform with ballroom waltzes and character dancing, but this ballet is mainly a vehicle for the main characters, with a huge dreamy pas de deux for Tatiana and Onegin in Act 1 and a despairing farewell pas de deux as the climax in Act 3 . Add to this Lensky and Olga with their joyous pas de deux in Act 1, the ballroom flirting in Act 2 and a showpiece pas de deux for Tatiana and her husband Prince Gremin in Act 3.
The bright, joyful character dancing of the corps in Act 1 is contrasted with the agonizing sculptural tableaux for Tatiana and Olga in Act 2 when they beg Lensky to call off the duel.
We see Onegin’s change of heart as brilliantly portrayed by Rudy Hawkes. In Act 1 he is cold, elegant, aloof, a Byronic /Mr Darcy hero in black, who determinedly breaks Tatiana’s heart by tearing up and returning her letter. He then seeks to cause major mischief by flirting with Olga. In Act 1 there is the wonderful ‘mirror’ pas de deux where Tatiana dreams of him as her hero and lover. In Act 3 the tables are turned and Onegin is an explosive whirlwind of passion, kneeling at Tatiana’s feet, begging for love and understanding, but alas it is too late.
Our leading lady, Tatiana, was marvellously danced by Rachel Rawlings. We see her develop from a shy, bookish teenager who falls foolishly and passionately in love with Onegin in Act 1, to Act 3 where she has blossomed into an elegant society wife with her doting husband Prince Gremin.
As Lensky, Onegin’s friend and Olga’s fiancée, Ty King-Wall is magnificent – at times jaw-dropping. He has a fabulous long stretched line and wonderful soft ballon. He is all charm and youthful exuberance. The young and happy, deliciously in love pas de deux for Lensky and Olga in Act 1 is delightful.
Olga, Tatiana’s sister, is delightfully danced by Lana Jones. She is more light-hearted and frivolous than Tatiana and does not seem to realise the consequences of her flirtation with Onegin until it is too late. She is exquisite in the Act 1 pas de deux especially.
With the combination of a dramatic love story, Tchaikovsky’s glorious music, lavish, sumptuous sets and costumes, and Cranko’s swooping, expressive choreography terrifically danced, Onegin is a tremendous production that has audiences swooning.