Opera audiences in The City have seen and heard Tchaikovsky’s 1879 “Eugene Onegin” dozens of blissful times, but John Cranko’s 1965 “Onegin,” opening next week, is a San Francisco Ballet premiere.
The famed late director of the Stuttgart Ballet also used Tchaikovsky’s music, but not from the opera. The ballet music is a compilation from several of the composer’s works, none from “Eugene Onegin.”
Both opera and ballet are based on Alexander Pushkin’s 1832 novel in verse (389 stanzas of iambic tetrameter) about thwarted love and challenged honor. Pushkin experienced both, especially the early-19th-century way of defending honor: He fought 29 duels, finally falling victim to one at age 37.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Pushkin’s protagonist Onegin is “a dandy from St. Petersburg, about 26, an arrogant, selfish and world-weary cynic.” He rejects the pure, passionate love of young Tatiana, only to fall in love with her years later when she is married.
When the production opens on Jan. 27, Rubén Martín Cintas in the role of Onegin, with Yuan Yuan Tan portraying Tatiana, could be one of the four pairs of dancers alternating during the run.
Cintas, who has been rehearsing since July, calls the character “coldish” and “calculating — trying to keep feelings inside, then everything coming together in an explosion.”
Thrilled with the assignment “to develop a role from beginning to end, to be seen here for the first time,” he is being coached by Cranko specialist Jane Bourne, in San Francisco to stage the production.
Cintas recently added his mother’s family name to his own, according to Spanish custom, he says, when “she became jealous as I was becoming known.” Among his memorable San Francisco Ballet roles was his appearance in Mark Morris’ “Joy Ride” wearing a gold lamé costume.
Cranko, who was born in South Africa in 1927, started his performing and dance-making career in London, then made his mark as the pioneering director of the Stuttgart Ballet. He died in 1973. His full-length works “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Taming of the Shrew” have been seen in San Francisco before.
Presented by San Francisco Ballet
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 27, Jan. 31 and Feb. 2-3; 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 28; 2 p.m. Jan. 29; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1
Tickets: $36 to $285
Contact: (415) 865-2000, www.sfballet.org