What a terrific ensemble performance last night from Julie Kent, Roberto Bolle, Maria Riccetto, and Jared Matthews who selflessly shared the stage to create a convincing reading of John Cranko's Onegin. As in Alexander Pushkin's narrative poem, Onegin brushed aside the young Tatiana who loved him only to return years later to discover that he had missed the catch of his lifetime. Tatiana, committed to a secure but less than passionate marriage, still loved Onegin but was not about to walk out on what she had. Lots of lessons in this one. True love may only come around once. Don't be selfish and take the ones who love you for granted. Commitment is the honorable path to take if not always the most enjoyable. Don't kill off your innocent friends.
Julie Kent was pitch-perfect as Tatiana. In Act I she was the willowy, wide-eyed adolescent who upon meeting Onegin thought she had found the type of love she had read about in her romance novel. By Act III, she had transformed into someone who realized that love was not all it was cracked up to be in those novels and she had settled for a more conventional, less romantic life.
In Act I Tatiana fell asleep and dreamed that Onegin walked through her mirror and quite literally swept her off her feet. The choreography here, of course, included huge, sweeping, Russian-inspired lifts. They had an exaggerated and improbable feel to them because that is how young girls' romantic dreams are. Improbable. Exaggerated. Unrealistic. Their dreams are the stuff of romance novels like the one Tatiana was reading at the beginning of Act I. Any moron understands that – except possibly the moron writing at the NYT ($6.51/share, down 75% in 5 years. Try writing better.) In Act III, Tatiana finally lived the PdD she dreamed about in Act I, but her sense of obligation and practicality now controlled her passion. With deep regret, she sent Onegin out into the dark and out of her life.
Haglund thought that Julie did a mostly wonderful job in meeting the technical demands of the choreography, although some attitude turns should have been steadier and assisted jumps should have been stronger. And it seems that Julie's partners have to work somewhat harder these days. But it's easily forgiven when the character is so finely drawn as it was last night.
There was much to admire in Roberto Bolle's interpretation of Onegin. Gray hair and a mustache are a good look for him and enhanced his anguish and remorse in the phenomenal Act III PdD. Where in the Act I bedroom PdD, Onegin danced almost in the shadow of Tatiana – he was there, but not really present – in Act III his pleading and remarkable partnering propelled the story to its dramatic conclusion. These moments are the ones that are bringing Haglund back to the theater on Friday night. Onegin's role doesn't include a lot of flashy variations, but it does require transformation of character which Bolle managed very well.
In another fine performance, Roman Zhurbin portrayed Prince Gremin, the serious nobleman who married Tatiana but didn't amount to marital bliss for her. Gremin was dutiful in his PdD with his wife, but nothing more.
Maria Riccetto was fully engaged in her role as Olga, the impetuous younger sister of Tatiana, who couldn't quite believe the attention she was getting from Onegin but nevertheless ran with it. It's always a pleasure to see how Maria and Julie Kent are so similarly refined and respectful in their classical lines and abilities to phrase the music. Maria was assigned some of the ballet's more challenging solos and managed them easily while making them look spontaneous.
Jared Matthews as Lensky, Olga's fiancé, skillfully melded classical technique with drama to convey Lensky's love for Olga and his strong sense of honor, both of which drove his character to the bad decision to challenge Onegin to a duel after Onegin haphazardly flirted with Olga. His solo in Act II was superbly executed with confident pirouettes and strong arabesques. Every step, every movement was spent developing Lensky's torment and regret.
The costumes and sets by Santo Loquasto were beautiful, almost in a rich Nicholas Georgiadis way. The sets reduced the size of the Met stage and brought the action closer to the audience. However, at times when all the countryfolk, relatives, and nobility were on the stage, it looked very cramped. A few of the corps dancers had difficulty dealing with the lack of space and with alignment in general. Sometimes the corps' choreography had a "first time on stage together" look to it.
Most impressively last night was the extent to which everyone tried to be part of the ensemble as opposed to anyone trying to be a bombastic bolshoi in-your-face, look-at-me scene stealer. It was a total pleasure to watch. The Pump Bump Award, a subtle Prada innovation, is bestowed upon the ensemble.