Ballet by John Cranko after Alexander Puschkin


Ballet by John Cranko after Alexander Puschkin
If there is one work that is still associated with John Cranko 50 years after his death, it is Onegin. Without a doubt, this ballet secured his fame and artistic immortality. The ballet combines all the characteristics that distinguish his pieces: dramaturgical clarity, believable, human emotions and breathtaking choreography. Based on the eponymous verse novel by Alexander Pushkin, Cranko tells the story through pure movement, eschewing pantomime. Like an open book, the plot unfolds before the audience's eyes, sweeping them up in the protagonist’s emotional turmoil.

Onegin breaks hearts: first that of the young Tatjana and ultimately his own. He stalks through life as an arrogant snob, not realizing that behind the ugly duckling a desirable woman lies. Years later, he wants to conquer the beautiful swan only to face the bitter realization that he missed his chance. While he has wasted his life, Tatjana has gone her way. Even though she still harbors feelings for him, she preserves her honor as a married woman and remains steadfast despite his expressions of love. The tables have turned; there is no going back.

For Cranko, Jürgen Rose created opulent sets and costumes. He brings the garden idyll and country festivities to life just as precisely, colorfully and lavishly as the aristocratic ball. Kurt-Heinz Stolze arranged the music of Peter Tchaikovsky especially for John Cranko, so that the music and the dance are equally heightened in drama.


Act I

Scene One: Madame Larina’s garden
Madame Larina, her daughter Olga and the nurse are sewing the party dresses for Tatiana’s birthday and gossiping about the upcoming festivities. Madame Larina speculates on her daughters’ future. Girls from the neighborhood arrive and 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 St. Petersburg. He introduces Onegin, who, bored with the city, has come to see if the country can offer him any distraction. Tatiana, full of youthful and romantic fantasies, falls in love with the elegant stranger, so different from the country people she knows. Onegin, on the other hand, sees only a coltish girl who reads too many romantic novels.

Scene Two: Tatiana’s bedroom
Tatiana, her imagination aflame with impetuous first love, dreams of Onegin and writes him a passionate love letter which she gives to her nurse to deliver.

Act II

Scene One: Tatiana’s birthday
The provincial gentry have come to celebrate Tatiana’s birthday. Onegin finds the company boring. Stifling his yawns, he finds it difficult to be civil; furthermore, he is irritated by Tatiana’s letter which he regards merely as an outburst of adolescent love. In a quiet moment, he seeks out Tatiana and, telling her that he cannot possibly love her, destroys her letter. Tatiana’s distress, instead of awaking pity, merely increases his annoyance. Prince Gremin, a distant relative of Madame Larina’s, joins the party. He is in love with Tatiana and Madame Larina hopes for a brilliant match; but Tatiana, troubled with her own heart, hardly notices her kind relative. In his boredom Onegin decides to provoke Lensky by flirting with Olga, who light-heartedly joins in the teasing. Lensky takes the matter with passionate seriousness and challenges Onegin to a duel.

Scene Two: The duel
Tatiana and Olga try to reason with Lensky, but his high romantic ideals have been shattered by the betrayal of his friend and the fickleness of his beloved; he insists that the duel take place. Before Tatiana’s eyes, Onegin kills his friend.


Scene One: St. Petersburg
Years later Onegin, having travelled the world in an attempt to escape from his own futility, returns to St. Petersburg. He is received at a ball in the palace of Prince Gremin. Gremin has married, and Onegin is astonished to recognize in the stately and elegant princess, Tatiana, the uninteresting little country girl whom once he rejected. The enormity of his mistake and loss engulfs him. His life now seems even more aimless and empty.

Scene Two: Tatiana’s boudoir
Onegin has written to Tatiana revealing his love and asking to see her, but she does not wish to meet him. In vain she pleads with her unsuspecting husband not to leave her alone this evening. Onegin comes and declares his love for her. In spite of her emotional turmoil, Tatiana realises that Onegin’s change of heart has come too late. Before his eyes she tears up his letter and orders him to leave her forever.

Further productions this season

Triple bill


World premieres by Vittoria Girelli, Samantha Lynch, Morgann Runacre-Temple.

The Nutcracker

Ballet by Edward Clug after E.T.A. Hoffmann
Triple Bill

Shades of Blue and White

Makarova / Forsythe / Scholz