SAN FRANCISCO BALLET – John Cranko’s “Onegin” is a Classic winner

Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

San Francisco Ballet’s Onegin is supremely elegant. The score, beautifully rendered by conductor Martin West and the SF Ballet Orchestra, is an amalgamation of various works by Tchaikovsky rather than music taken from his opera. Choreographer John Cranko (1927–1943) together with German conductor and Kurt-Heinz Stolze combined and re-arranged a wide variety of the composer’s piano pieces and symphonic works including Francesca da Rimini and Romeo and Juliet to create a musical narration that is seemingly cohesive, allows for the structure and traditions of Classical ballet, and is suitable enough to the story. What Onegin lacks are the great signature themes and resolving climaxes unique to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. Ultimately, the appeal of the ballet rests in Cranko’s inventive and stylish choreography and its direct appropriateness to clearly defined characters.

All production photos by Erik Tomasson

In the title role at Friday’s opening, Vitor Luiz delivered a consumate performance as the beautiful, privileged, and moody hero ruined by his own conceit. Since joining the Company in 2009, Vitor has been dazzling audiences in such roles as “Siegfried” (Tomasson’s Swan Lake), “Albrecht” (Tomasson’s Giselle), and last season’s provocative hit, RAkU. But as “Eugene Onegin”, the very charismatic Vitor Luiz has found the perfect role in which to combine electrifying precision and incisive dramatic interpretation.


As his friend, “Lensky”, Gennadi Nedvigin has reached an even higher level of artistry and grace since his stunning performance last season as “Franz” in Balanchine’s Coppélia. Nedvigin shines as the solid but headstrong fiancé of “Olga” danced by Clara Blanco. His stunning technique and dramatic flexibility make him a sympathetic hero in this version of the classic Russian lyric novel set by choreographer John Cranko. Clara Blanco is both playful and seductive in her taunting flirtations with Onegin. In Act II her pathetic pleadings with Lensky to withdraw his challenge to duel sparked tension and a growing sense of futility in Pushkin’s story of pride and vengeance.


Maria Kochetkova was captivating as the naive “Tatiana”. She is brilliant technically and effective dramatically. In Act I she is shy and delicate, virtually withering in her initial encounter with the dashing and arrogant Onegin. In Act II, motivated by desire, she becomes aggressive in composing a revealing love letter to him and then pitiful when he  angrily rejects it. By Act III, now the established and loving wife of “Prince Gremin” – portrayed with great sophistication by Pascal Molat – Maria conveys maturity and strength in her resistance and dismissal of Onegin as he begs for her love.


Eugene Onegin continues Tuesday, January 31st through Friday, February 3rd with the following cast members. Click on the date to order tickets on-line:

Onegin: Vitor Luiz; Tatiana: Maria Kochetkova; Lensky: Gennadi Nedvigin; Olga: Clara Blanco. Conductor: Martin West. Performance begins at 8:00 pm.

Onegin: Davit Karapetyan; Tatiana: Vanessa Zahorian; Lenksy: Taras Domitro; Olga: Dana Genshaft; Gremin: Quinn Wharton. Conductor: David LaMarche. Performance begins at 7:30 pm.

Onegin: Pierre-Francois Vilanoba; Tatiana: Sarah Van Patten; Lensky: Isaac Hernandez; Olga: Courtney Elizabeth; Gremin: Tiit Helimets. Conductor: David LaMarche. Performance begins at 8:00 pm


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