Royal Ballet - Onegin - Alina Cojocaru - Adam Copper - Royal Opera House - Covent Garden

I went to see the ballet Onegin (Yevgeny Onyegin) inspired by the poem by Alexander Pushkin. It fascinated me to learn that name Eugene may have come about during the time in Russia when the public had enjoyed the story entitled Eugene, or the Consequences of a Bad Upbringing and Bad Company. And Onegin?This recalls the River Onega that flows into the Arctic Ocean. The music is by Pyotr II'yich Tchaikovsky. There is also an operatic version, however, the ballet does follow the opera's structure, but it uses a different Tchaikovsky score. The ballet is based on Tchaikovsky's most popular opera. He called it Lyric Scenes indicating the opera's episodic character. There is also a film version staring Ralph Fiennes. Tchaikovsky became very involved in Pushkin's poem and said that Onegin was "a cold, heartless coxcomb" rejecting Tatiana. A young girl once sent him (Tchaikovsky) a passionate love-letter; he was so taken that he married her. Although the marriage did not work out (he was a homosexual), we are left with a beautiful opera and ballet. The ballet's choreography and libretto are by John Cranko, who was born in South Africa. Cranko entered the Cape Town Ballet School in 1944. His first ballet was The Soldiers Tale. He arrived in London in 1946 and joined Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet. Cranko is considered one of the most important choreographers of the British ballet. This greatly performed ballet has, however, never been danced by the Royal Ballet. Cranko tried to produce it in 1960 hoping to engage Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. In 1961, at the age of 33, he was invited to Stuttgart to stage The Prince of the Pagodas that he had staged at La Scala, Milan, where he had also staged Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. So, in 1965, in charge if the Stuttgart Ballet, he staged Onegin, hence, since then the ballet has been staged all over the world and now, after all these years, at the ROH.

In Britain Onegin was staged in the 1980's with the English National Ballet. Kenneth MacMillian tried to stage it in 1977 but there was a problem with the set so McMillian staged Cranko's Taming of the Shrew instead. The first production of Onegin at Stuttgart of Pushkin's verse-novel was the ideal material for this theatrical piece.

The first to play Tatiana was Marcia Haydee. I read in the newspapers that it was a breathtaking interpretation. Other great interpretations were from Natalya Makarova, Karen Kain and Lynn Seymour. It was the two duets from Onegin that Makarova chose to dance for her farewell performance at the Mariinsky Theatre. Cranko, while at Stuttgard, proved to be an outstanding director. He gained some independence for the Stuttgart Opera Company and bettered the salaries for dancers. He also created a first-rate ballet school. Cranko helped many choreographers like John Neumeier and Jiri Kylian. His choreography for Romeo and Juliet was one of the first and is still one of the best. His Swan Lake had the revolutionary idea of a tragic ending. He created for Margot Fonteyn a mature woman in Poeme de l'extase, inspired by Colette and Klimt. Cranko remained at the Stuttgard Ballet until his premature death in 1973. He was one of the best choreographers of the 20th century. This is his first work, after twenty-years, to be shown at Covent Garden by the Royal Ballet. Onegin is actually staged by Stuttgart's boss Reid Anderson, but danced by the Royal Ballet. He says, "Onegin is a dramatic ballet which fulfils a very great need for people to be moved by something." Yes, this is how I felt when I left the ROH - very moved that Tatiana had finally rejected the man she loved to stay with the elderly Prince who offered her security. She rips up his letters and sends him away, as Onegin does to her in Act 1 when she was a young girl dreaming of him. Cranko is very innovative in that he uses a mirror during the dream sequence. (Unfortunately, my daughter is not very Tatiana-oriented. I try to tell her to use her head and not her hormones. )

Reid Anderson says that the love story of Onegin and Tatiana offers the dramatic moments that most dancers live for. The other tragic couple is Olga and Lensky. Lensky is Onegin's friend. Onegin takes him to the country to seduce Olga (Tatiana's sister). Lensky challenges Onegin to a dual and although the two sisters try to save him, he is killed - a beautiful and dramatic scene. Anderson chose the principal dancer Tamara Rojo from Madrid for the classical role of Tatiana. She joined the Royal Ballet in 2000. Another one of the key roles was performed by Alina Cojocaru, who was born in Bucharest and trained in Kiev, joined the Royal Ballet in 1999 and was promoted to principal in 2001. Cojocaru's dancing is a growing miracle. She is a pure classicist and adds detail of her own. But the newspapers are headlining HIM - Adam Copper! He is the star that plays Onegin. I first saw him last year in Swan Lake in Matthew Bourne's production and I, like many others, follow him everywhere. I absolutely love him! ! I was very surprised, particularly due to the September 11th tragedy in the US, when I went to purchase a ticket and they were nearly sold out.

Adam Cooper said, "I love being a bastard. It really suits me." and he laughs. I thought to myself "oh, god! I do love bastards and Eugene Onegin is certainly a bastard! "When I think about it all the men in my life have been bastard rats.

Cooper can play a nasty role on stage with a vicious sexual arrogance perfectly. He left Royal Ballet and is back as a temporary guest-dancer. He said that he had read Pushkin in translation but did not see Ralph Fiennes in the recent film. He danced his first Swan Lake at the age of 18 in 1989 with Darcey Bussell. She has just had a baby but will be back at the ROH for Christmas in the Nutcracker. Cooper became the preferred partner of Sylvie Guillem.

In 1995 he and his girlfriend (Sarah Wildor) bought a house together and after one month Cooper left the Royal Ballet for Adventures in Motion Pictures (AMP) headed by Matthew Bourne. He says he was under-valued and his career damaged by imported stars such as Irek Mukhamedov and Zoltan Solymosi, which have the glamour of being foreign. So in 1995 he played the male swan lead in Swan Lake and to critical acclaim and public success he became a star. In March of 1999 he left for LA and Broadway with AMP. They tried to entice him to Hollywood, but his girlfriend and three cats were waiting for him in London. Awwww! Cooper danced with AMP for 5 years. Sarah Wildor (now his wife) got a leave of absence from the ROH to dance with him in Cinderella. She has now officially retired from the ROH that she has been apart of since she was 10 years old. So both swans have now flown the nest! In contrast, Russian dancers such as Nureyev and Baryshnikov came to the ROH while Cooper left the ROH for the West End stage.

Cooper is also the choreographer for the Scottish Ballet and Tetsuya Kumakawa's Ballet in Japan. He is also the Director of the Boys at the London Studio Centre's ballet section. In 1999, he returned to the Royal Ballet as a guest and the same year he was nominated for a Tony Award for AMP's Broadway run of Swan Lake. Cooper was not only trained in ballet, but also in tap, modern, and jazz (he can sing too! ). His brother Simon Cooper, is also a ballet-dancer and is now at the great Rambert Dance Company. His father is a music teacher and choirmaster and helps him with his choreography and singing. Since becoming a principal dancer in 1994 he has had unparalleled success in all aspects (even a "sex symbol" for the young generation).

This was a great dramatic performance with charismatic dancers. I loved it.


Verinha Ottoni.


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