John Cranko’s Onegin Mounted for San Francisco Ballet January 27

9 Feb

Malfunctioning U-Verse connections to my computer delayed posting these comments.

With  Santo Loquasto set and costumes borrowed from The National Ballet of Canada, San Francisco Ballet staged their elegant reading of John Cranko’s Onegin January 27 in a cast giving remarkable readings for the first of their  two scheduled  performances.  Vitor Luiz, cast as Onegin and Gennadi Nedvigin, Lensky, paired with Maria Kochekova as Tatiana and Clara Blanco as Olga.  Pascal Molat filled the blander role of Gremin with his usual warmth.

Other scheduled casts were: Davit Karapetyan and Vanessa Zahorian as Onegin and Tatiana with Taras Domitro and Dana Genshaft  Lensky and Olga, Quinn Wharton as Gremin. Sarah Van Patten and Pierre-Francois Vilanoba as  principals are flanked by Isaac Hernandez and Courtney Elizabeth as Lensky and Olga, Tiit Helimets as Gremin.  Yuan Yuan Tan as Tatiana was partnered by Ruben Martin Cintas as Onegin, Jaime Garcia Castilla as Lensky, Dores Andre, Olga, with Damian Smith as Gremin.

Casting gave major roles to Clara Blanco and Dores Andre as well as for Courtney Elizabeth, Dana Genshaft and Quinn Wharton. Blanco and Andre were promoted to soloist status following their debuts as Olga.

The production displayed a beautiful, classic columned  porch on the diagonal from upstage right, hinting at a comfortably grand country home; later it was Tatiana’s bedroom with an anteroom, then  an elegant palace in Act III’s  ballroom and the private room of  Tatiana, with the telling touch of a hobby horse downstage right, symbol of  her domestic existence. In Act II, the girls wore gauzy grey fluffy dresses contrasting to the townspeople wearing modified versions of  Regency dress with  bonnets;  Act III displays filmy  pastel elegance de rigeur for St. Petersburg. My one hesitation in believability was in the birches, Act II is Lensky’s and Onegin’s duel, despite pleadings by Tatiana and Olga.  A whiff of snowflakes falls where Tatiana’s birthday party was outdoors.

The five principals were matched in size, the timbre of their performances well- pitched from Kochetkova’s awkwardly romantic Tatiana to Luiz’  tensile precision, while Nedvigin as Lensky with Blanco as Olga displayed the image of warmth and assured young love with their remarkably correct, fluid style, breathtaking to watch. Molat as Gremin presented an assured, diplomatic, an ultimately family man.

Cranko’s assignments of  pas de deux fascinated – Act I, Scene I belonging to Lensky and Olga, Scene II with Tatiana’s letter  visualized through Onegin’s miror emergence.  Act II given to conflict; after the distasteful rejection of Tatiana’s letter,  Onegin’s provocation of Lensky ups the tension;  Scene II , filled with Lensky’s soliloquy, before the pas de trois with Olga and Tatiana prior to the senseless duel.

Luiz gave Onegin’s Act III demeanor bravado consistent with the character’s restlessness; his response seeing Tatiana was in the best coup de foudre style, clear contrast to the domestic  pas de deux between Tatiana and Gremin. Kochetkova made the Onegin  struggle  genuine by  drawing Gremin back from departing, seeking strength for her encounter,  passionate,  but never warm.

I saw the second performance of Van Patten-Vilanoba with Hernandez and Elizabeth and Helimets as Gremin. Van Patten and Vilanoba have partnered elsewhere; both share a believable stillness. Van Patten is naturally engaged whether in reading or in tending older folk at the party, hesitant but not awkward.  Her affection with Helimets as Gremin was warm, comfortable, making the struggle with Onegin monumental.

Vilanoba’s smiles and disdain  were  quiet, calm, thorough,  icy in impact where Vitor’s Onegin  smoldered intensity. Hernandez’ Lensky was the warm young romantic, broken in pieces. Elizabeth’s Olga’s was brittle and shallow.

San Francisco Ballet usually gives a new work two seasons; this holding true, the audience can enjoy the reprise of John Cranko’s dramatic, elegantly potent ballet in 2013.

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