Night at the Ballet: Onegin

Video by yk387

The advertisement on the bus stops and train stations caught my eyes, a striking image of a masked man lifting a beautiful young girl with a background of what seems to be a zoomed image of a moon. I am not a person that can be easily swayed by advertisements but when I’ve read that the music is of Pjotr Tchaikovsky, probably Russia’s most famous composer, I immediately decided on reserving a seat.

My first exposure to Tchaikovsky’s music was in the beautiful National Opera in Prague where I watched the very classical Sleeping Beauty: The Czar’s last daughter only 15 minutes after I’ve landed in Czech Republic.

It is only while already seated and waiting for the show to start that Onegin is inspired by the 1837 novel by another Russian personality Alexander Pushkin, of whose works I am totally unfamiliar with. The show is the first of only two showings in Rotterdam in a month-long tour of Boris Eifman’s most popular work. The show started 30-minutes but the many surprises were worth the wait and the rush to get to the Nieuwe Luxor on time.

The show opens with a birthday ball, elegant black dresses, diamond necklace, a young lady, a handsome man and the charming Eugene Onegin.The young Onegin, bored, mischievous and handsome met the equally carefree Olga, the love of his friend, the poet Vladimir Lenksy. Lenksy and Olga brought Onegin to her home where her vulnerable sister Tatyana fell inlove with him. Tatyana expressed her love for him through a heartfelt letter, which is considered taboo in that period, but Onegin did not reciprocate her feelings. Instead he cajoled with Olga, thus breaking the heart of Lenksy. In the events that followed, Onegin murdered Lenksy, an event that devastated both his life and that of Olga. Tatyana took care of him until she was taken to Moscow and introduce to the grandiose life. In another ball, she met Onegin again but this time, the table was turned.

Suprisingly, Eifman’s Onegin is not fully set on Imperial Russia but on the backdrop of the period when the Iron Curtain fell. In combination with Tchaikovsky’s music, Eifman used the compositions of violinist and rock artist Alexander Sitkovetsky. The result is that of a Broadway spectacular, the old and the new mixing perfectly gripping the audience with a whole new ballet experience.

The set design and the lighting are stunning. A full red moon, a burning hole of hell, a moonlight, the club scene, all were thoughtfully planned and superbly conceptualized. I especially love the scene where Tatiana dreamed of monsters and Onegin saved her. It is probably the highlight of the whole show, full of emotions, anger, love, passion. It is the kind of scene that you would not want to end. This is the scene where the advertisement photo was lifted and they could have not made a better choice.

Onegin surprises as it impresses. A contemporary ballet I should say which brings this classic dance closer to my generation who grew up with Hollywood pop culture. Eifman made ballet into a performance that common people would appreciate.

My attempt to capture the Boris Eifman Ballet Corps

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