Onegin

I recently performed Onegin with the Tulsa Ballet to great success. I was not familiar with the work, but it is a stunning setting of the Alexander Pushkin novel in verse, Yevgeny Onegin. The piece is choreographed by John Cranko, and the Cranko Trust is quite selective in licensing performance rights to the work. In the USA, only the American Ballet Theater, Boston, San Francisco, and Houston companies have staged it, and now Tulsa joins their ranks, again testimony to the quality of this amazing troupe. The Trust assigns a stager and designer to oversee the production so that Cranko�s wishes are precisely followed. The Stager, Jane Bourne, spent six weeks in Tulsa bringing the work to life. I was familiar with the Cranko/Stolze duo from our Tulsa performances last season of Taming of the Shrew, a show that, while amusing and extremely enjoyable to watch, is fiendishly difficult to play and conduct. So, I approached this assignment with a little fear and trepidation. The score is the music of Tchaikovsky, but not composed with the story in mind. Cranko worked with composer Kurt Heinz Stolze to develop the score that is entirely music of Tchaikovsky, but none of it being derived from the opera Tchaikovsky wrote based in the same subject. In fact, Cranko couldn�t sell the idea in London or Paris given the existence of the Opera, and it was not until he assumed leadership of the Stuttgart Ballet that he was allowed to fulfill his vision in 1965. Stolze used several existing orchestral works for the piece, some of Tchaikovsky�s tone poems, most notably the Tempest, Voyavoda, and Francesca da Rimini. The majority of the musical material, however, comes from Tchaikovsky�s piano music, which was orchestrated by Stolze. While there are some orchestration issues, and the need to make some adjustments for balance, overall the score is stunning. It is cohesive in its design and the melodies are vintage Tchaikovsky. The story is extremely accessible, even to the novice ballet aficionado. The experience was much like discovering a neglected or unknown work by a great master. I hope I have the opportunity to perform it again!