Ballet in three acts by John Cranko
after Alexander Puschkin


  Peter I. Tchaikovsky
arranged and orchestrated by
Kurt-Heinz Stolze
  John Cranko
  Jürgen Rose
Staged by
  Jane Bourne
Tamas Detrich


World Premiere
Stuttgart Ballet, Stuttgart, April 13, 1965
(revised version October 27, 1967)

Original Cast    
  Ray Barra
  Marcia Haydée
  Ana Cardus
  Egon Madsen
Prince Gremin
  Kenneth Barlow
Madame Larina
  Ruth Papendieck


Premiere in Hamburg
The Hamburg Ballet, November 4, 1984
New Production
The Hamburg Ballet, December 2, 2012

  Alexandre Riabko
  Silvia Azzoni
  Leslie Heylmann
  Thiago Bordin
Prince Gremin
  Carsten Jung
Madame Larina
  Anna Polikarpova



In 1969, the Stuttgart Ballet made its American debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York with John Cranko's ballet "Onegin". The ballet, created in Germany four years earlier, was an immediate success. The next day in the New York Times, the renowned theatre critic Clive Barnes wrote: "Cranko's choreography has two major strengths. First is the authority of his ensemble work; here he shows complete stage mastery. But second, and eventually perhaps more important, is the elegance and expressiveness of his pas de deux." Discussing the portrayal of the female lead Tatiana, he notes: "As sharp as a razor, as intense as a cruel blue flame, as womanly as a peasant mother, Miss Haydée possesses all the right choreographic verities and dramatic inconsistencies for greatness".

From the very beginning, Cranko's ballet lived from its dancers. Marcia Haydée danced the role of Tatiana in the world premiere in Stuttgart in 1965, accompanied by Ray Barra as Onegin, with Egon Madsen as Lensky and Ana Cardus as Olga. Since the revised version was first performed in 1967 with Heinz Clauss and Marcia Haydée in the lead roles, it has been performed over 500 times by the Stuttgart Ballet alone. In 1972, four years after Cranko took over as artistic director in Munich and only a year before his death, the South African choreographer taught his full-length work to the Bavarian State Ballet. Productions by the Australian Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet followed in 1976, and many other notable companies followed suit. This ever-increasing concentration of productions of Cranko's Onegin around the world is proof of the piece's important status within the history of ballet. The work is widely accepted as a classic. Companies with wide-ranging artistic repertoire that include Petipa classics such as "Giselle," "La Bayadère" and "La Sylphide" gladly revisit Cranko's ballet d'action, which highlights the narrative power of dance. Cranko was interested in the alternation between emotion and rationale, which is particularly evident in Onegin and Tatiana. Both figures, whose characters develop on very different time scales, find it impossible to find a common language for their passion. In Puschkin's novel, which was first published in 1833, the characters are surrounded by an overwrought society that makes the protagonists seem directionless, undecided and increasingly disillusioned in comparison. At the beginning of the novel, Puschkin appeals directly to the reader: "This pied collection begs your indulgence – it's been spun from threads both sad and humoristic, themes popular or idealistic, products of carefree hours, of fun, of sleeplessness, faint inspirations, of powers unripe, or on the wane, of reason's icy intimations, and records of a heart in pain." Puschkin opens the reader's perspectives, sketching an image of worldliness in front of which Tatiana and Onegin's tragic love story appears even more striking.

Puschkin's "Eugene Onegin" has been called an "encyclopedia of Russian life". It would not be misplaced to call John Cranko's "Onegin" an encyclopedia of emotion – since love, particularly when unrequited, knows much about the fragile trembling of a bleeding heart.




Scene 1: Madame Larina's Garden
Madame Larina, Olga, and the nurse are finishing the party dresses and gossiping about Tatiana's upcoming birthday festivities. Madame Larina speculates on the future and reminisces about her own lost beauty and youth. 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 in Tatiana only a naive country girl who reads too many romantic novels.

Scene 2: 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.


Scene 1: Tatiana's Birthday
The provincial gentry have come to celebrate Tatiana's birthday. They gossip about Lensky's infatuation with Olga and whisper prophecies of a dawning romance between Tatiana and the newcomer. Onegin finds the company boring. Stifling his yawns, he finds it difficult to be civil to them; 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 love her, tears up the letter. Tatiana's distress, instead of awakening pity, merely increases his irritation. Prince Gremin, a distant relation, appears. He is in love with Tatiana and Madame Larina hopes for a brilliant match but Tatiana, troubled with her own heart, hardly notices her kindly, older relation. Onegin, in his boredom, decides to provoke Lensky by flirting with Olga who light-heartedly joins in his teasing. But Lensky takes the matter with passionate seriousness. He challenges Onegin to a duel.

Scene 2: The Duel
Tatiana and Olga try to reason with Lensky but his high romantic ideals are shattered by the betrayal of his friend and the fickleness of his beloved; he insists that the duel take place. Onegin kills his friend and for the first time his cold heart is moved by the horror of his deed. Tatiana realizes that her love was an illusion and that Onegin is self-centered and empty.


Scene 1: St. Petersburg
Onegin, having travelled the world for many years in an attempt to escape his own futility, returns to St. Petersburg where he is received at a ball in the palace of Prince Gremin. Gremin has recently married and Onegin is astonished to recognize in the stately and elegant young princess, Tatiana, the uninteresting little country girl whom he once turned away. The enormity of his mistake and loss engulfs him. His life now seems even more aimless and empty.

Scene 2: Tatiana's Boudoir
Tatiana reads a letter from Onegin, which reveals his love for her. Suddenly he stands before her, impatient to know her answer. Tatiana sorrowfully tells him that although she still feels her passionate girlhood love for him, she is now a woman and she could never find happiness with him or have respect for him. She orders him to leave her forever.



John Cranko

Born in South Africa in 1927, Cranko made his first ballet in 1946, while studying at Cape Town University Ballet School. That same year he left for London to study at the Sadler's Wells school, later joining the company. After retiring from dancing at 23, he began choreographing extensively, for Sadler's Wells (and its later incarnation, The Royal Ballet), Ballet Rambert, Paris Opéra Ballet, and New York City Ballet. In 1961 he became director of Stuttgart Ballet and turned it into the world-renowned company it is today. He died at the young age of 45 while on a transatlantic flight to Stuttgart, but left a pronounced mark on the ballet world as a nuanced storyteller and gifted, musical choreographer. Among his dozens of works are three widely performed full-lengths Romeo and Juliet (1958), The Taming of the Shrew (1969), and Onegin (1965).



Trailer I
Trailer II

2 intermissions
2 hours 30 min.




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