Ballet in three acts after Alexander Puschkin

Choreography John Cranko · Composer Peter I. Tschaikowsky / Kurt-Heinz Stolze

Friday, 31. July 2009
07:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Duration est. 2 hours 30 minutes · 1. Akt (est. 07:30 pm - 08:10 pm ) · 1. Pause (est. 08:10 pm - 08:35 pm ) · 2. Akt (est. 08:35 pm - 09:05 pm ) · 2. Pause (est. 09:05 pm - 09:30 pm ) · 3. Akt (est. 09:30 pm - 10:00 pm )


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John Cranko
Bühne und Kostüme
Jürgen Rose

  • Soloists and corps de ballet of the Bavarian State Ballet
  • Bayerisches Staatsorchester
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If any full-length ballet from the second half of the 20 th Century has a chance at becoming a classic à la Swan Lake then, according to audiences, critics and dancers, it is John Cranko's Onegin.

Created in 1965 and based on the poem by Alexander Pushkin, the story of the young Tatjana, who falls in love with the arrogant dandy Onegin and who is cruelly rejected by him moved audiences worldwide from Beijing to New York. Onegin has been performed in Munich for over 40 years, and many of the greatest dancers – from Eva Evdokimova to Konstanze Vernon, Evelyn Hart, Lucia Lacarra and Polina Semionova – have given the role their own unique, unmistakable personality. Hardly any other narrative ballet allows so many possibilities for character development than in the role of Tatjana: During the two and a half hour performance, Tatjana transforms from a dreamy, naive teenager to a mature woman, who must, in a final, dramatic confrontation, finally decide between passion and duty. 


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Act I, Scene 1Madame Larina’s Garden. Madame Larina, Olga, and the nurse are finishing off the party dresses and gossiping about Tatiana’s coming birthday festivities. Madame Larina speculates on the future and reminisces about her own lost beauty and youth. Girls from the neighbourhood arrive, their greetings and chatter are interrupted by gunshots.

Lensky, a young poet engaged to Olga, arrives and tells them there is no cause for alarm, he was hunting 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 country girl who reads too many romantic novels.

Scene 2Tatiana’s Bedroom Tatiana, her imagination aflame with impetuous first – love dreams of Onegin, writes him a passionate love – letter which she gives the nurse to deliver.

Act II, Scene 1Tatiana’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 tears up her letter. Tatiana’s distress, instead of awaking 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 and elderly relation.
Onegin, in his boredom, decides to provoke Lensky by flirting with Olga who lightheadedly joins in the teasing. But Lensky takes the matter with passionate seriousness. He challenges Onegin to a duel.

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

Act III, Scene 1St. Petersburg. Years later, Onegin having travelled the world in an attempt to escape from his own futility returns to St. Petersburg where he is received at a ball in the place 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 2Tatiana’s Boudoir.Tatiana reads a letter from Onegin which reveals his love. 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 or respect with him. She orders him to leave her forever.

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John Cranko was born on August 15, 1927 in Rustenburg, South Africa. He received his dance education mainly at the University of Cape Town, where he also choreographed his first ballet to Stravinsky’s Suite from The Soldier’s Tale. In 1946, he continued his studies at the Sadler’s Wells School in London and shortly afterwards became a member of the Sadler’s Wells Ballet (subsequently The Royal Ballet).

In 1947, Cranko made a sensational choreography to Debussy’s Children’s Corner for the Sadler’s Wells Ballet; from 1949 on he devoted himself exclusively to choreography, producing extremely successful ballets - mostly for the Sadler’s Wells Ballet. In 1955, he choreographed La Belle Hélène for the Paris Opera Ballet and in 1957 he created his first full-length ballett, The Prince of the Pagodas, for The Royal Ballet. In 1961, John Cranko was appointed ballet director in Stuttgart by Walter Erich Schaefer, the General Director of the Wuerttemberg State Theatre (today’s Stuttgart State Theater). At the beginning of his time in Stuttgart, Cranko created short ballets and gathered together a group of dancers, among whom were Egon Madsen, Richard Cragun, Birgit Keil and, most importantly, a young Brazilian dancer named Marcia Haydée who was to become his prime muse and inspiration.

The breakthrough for Cranko came in December 1962 with the world premiere of Romeo and Juliet, which was highly praised by critics and audience alike. In Stuttgart, Cranko created many small choreographic jewels such as Jeu de cartes and Opus I as well as his symphonic ballet Initials R.B.M.E. but it was with his dramatic story ballets such as Onegin, The Taming of the Shrew, Carmen, Poème de l’Extase and Traces that Cranko secured his place in the pantheon of great choreographers. In addition, he encouraged young dancers in his company - including Jiří Kylián and John Neumeier - to try their hand at choreography.

Cranko’s gift for nuanced story-telling, clear dramatic structure and his exquisite mastery of the art of the pas de deux conquered New York audiences during a triumphant season at the Metropolitan Opera in 1969. World-wide acclaim soon followed, as Cranko and his young company toured the globe.

John Cranko died unexpectedly at age 45 on June 26, 1973, on a return flight from a successful USA tour.

John Cranko was director of the Bavarian State Opera's ballet company between 1968 and 1970. In these years, he created "Begegnung in drei Farben", "Gesang der Nachtigall", "Triplum", "Französische Suite", "Une Fete Galante", "Orpheus" and "Ebony Concerto". Also, the company performed the masterly "Romeo and Juliet", "Onegin", and "The Taming of the Shrew" which are still part of the repertoire.

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