A magnificent dance production, San Francisco Ballet's "Onegin" also exemplifies romantic poetry and theater of the first order. Thursday’s opening performance of the woefully short one-week run was thrilling in every way.
The reprise of the company's 2012 U.S. premiere of choreographer John Cranko's revised 1967 "Onegin" stands up next to Pushkin's original 1837 novel and Tchaikovsky's 1879 landmark opera. The piece onstage in the War Memorial is a vital, gripping dance drama that unfolds continuously and cohesively.
The opening-night cast – Maria Kochetkova (Tatiana), Vitor Luiz (Onegin), Joan Boada (Lensky) and Clara Blanco (Olga) – performed well both individually and as an ensemble. Boada is new and wonderful in his role. The others, who danced together last year, have gone even deeper into their characters, further enhancing splendid performances.
For example, Kochetkova channels Tatiana perfectly when she slightly turns her head, instead of melodramatically collapsing, as she is cruelly rejected by Luiz's haughty Onegin.
Reid Anderson and Jane Bourne’s staging of Cranko's modern classic is even better than last year's production, which had a few missteps, particularly in terms of subtlety, such as when Onegin shoved Tatiana during the rejection scene. The nobility of 19th-century Russia kept physical violence in private (or practiced on serfs). It had no place in society – or on the stage.
The large corps of dancers – in Santo Loquasto's costumes set against his authentic, Russian-looking sets – shined in country-set scenes and the St. Petersburg ballroom. From a vigorous ensemble number of male villagers to often funny character-dancer bits in other scenes, the huge secondary cast was excellent.
Under the direction of Martin West, the orchestra gorgeously played a melange of Tchaikovsky selections that wonderfully accompany the work. As in "Nijinsky," Anna Kruger’s viola solos were superb. Principal clarinet Natalie Parker, principal oboe Laura Griffiths and harpist Olga Rakitchenkov also had appealing turns in the spotlight.
The first-night cast returns on Wednesday. Tonight's performance pairs Yuan Yuan Tan as Tatiana with Cory Stearns, from American Ballet Theatre, as Onegin. In additional performances, the lead couple will be danced by Sarah Van Patten and Luke Ingham, and Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan.
S.F. Ballet Program Five: Onegin
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. today and Tuesday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Tickets: $44 to $330
Contact: (415) 865-2000, www.sfballet.org