Young love leads to deadly consequences.

Choreographer John Cranko is unmatched in his ability to tell complex love stories with opulent movement and passionate emotions. Created in 1965 and based on Alexander Pushkin’s revered verse-novel, Onegin follows the story of Tatiana as she falls for, and then is rejected by, a handsome stranger who realizes too late his tragic decisions.

Choreography: John Cranko
Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

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April 5 Evening 7:30pm
April 6 Evening 7:30pm
April 10 Evening 7:30pm
April 11 Evening 7:30pm
April 12 Evening 7:30pm
April 13 Matinee 2pm
April 13 Evening 7:30pm

casting – subject to change

4/5, 4/11, 4/13 eve
Onegin: Rex Tilton
Lensky: Alexander MacFarlan (4/5 Joshua Shutkind)
Madame Larina: Emily Adams
Tatiana: Arolyn Williams
Olga: Katherine Lawrence (4/5 Jenna Rae Herrera)
Nurse: Jane Wood
Prince Gremin: Lucas Horns

4/6, 4/13 mat
Onegin: Chase O’Connell
Lensky: Jordan Veit
Madame Larina: Katlyn Addison
Tatiana: Beckanne Sisk
Olga: Chelsea Keefer
Nurse: Jane Wood
Prince Gremin: Ronald Tilton (4/6 Lucas Horns)

4/10, 4/12
Onegin: Adrian Fry
Lensky: Joshua Shutkind
Madame Larina: Emily Adams
Tatiana: Katie Critchlow
Olga: Jenna Rae Herrera
Nurse: Jane Wood
Prince Gremin: Dominic Ballard

Adam Sklute Explains Onegin

Onegin is considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest ballets. It is quite an honor for Ballet West to be granted permission to present it.

Based on Alexander Pushkin’s passionate verse novel Eugene Onegin, Onegin was conceived and choreographed by genius choreographer John Cranko in 1965. Cranko selected music by Tchaikovsky to accompany the ballet, in a wonderful arrangement by Kurt Heinz-Stolze. Tchaikovsky had written Eugene Onegin the opera in 1879, which has since grown to become a classic. However, for his ballet, Cranko chose not to use any of the music from the opera. Instead, with great innovation, he selected various pieces from the composer’s sublime and prolific orchestral repertory. The result, Onegin, became an instant hit, catapulting Cranko’s company, the Stuttgart Ballet, to international fame.

So what is Onegin about? Well, how many of us, when we were young, fell in love with an unattainable person? Perhaps it was the most beautiful girl in school, or the captain of a varsity team. Imagine writing them a note professing your love, only to have them ignore you… or worse, mock you. Then, years later, when you are successful and in a relationship, the old crush, who was previously oblivious and mean, comes back into your life to say you are the only one for them. You still have feelings for this person but… it is too late. The moment has passed. This time, it is you who breaks their heart. In brief, that is the story of Onegin.

Pushkin’s original verse novel was published serially from 1825 to 1832, in pre-revolutionary Imperial Russia. Not dissimilar from Jane Austen’s 1813 English novel Pride and Prejudice, Onegin follows a dark and brooding nobleman from the city (Onegin) who moves out to the provinces, befriends a lighthearted country nobleman, and meets the nobleman’s fiancée and her older sister, Tatiana. This is where the Russian tale takes on a darker hue than its gentler English counterpart does —Tatiana instantly falls in love with Onegin and, after their first meeting, writes him a passionate letter professing her undying love. Onegin rejects her as being too boring and rips up the letter. He is uninterested, and condescending. Worse yet, through a series of events, he ends up killing Tatiana’s soon-to-be brother-in-law in a duel. Tatiana cannot forgive him, but she goes on with her life, marrying a prince. Onegin suffers, experiencing deep guilt for killing his friend, and never finds another woman who loves him as much as Tatiana did. Years later, he is invited to a royal ball, and does not realize at first that Tatiana is the prince’s elegant wife. They are shocked to see each other. Now, Onegin writes a letter declaring his undying love for Tatiana, begging for her forgiveness. She refuses him and rips up his letter; they will never see each other again. While Tatiana has had a happy ending, it becomes clear Onegin will never find happiness in his life.

Onegin is filled with the perfect material for a dramatic ballet. And in my opinion, no choreographer was better suited to interpret this intense story than John Cranko, who possessed a gift for storytelling through movement. Cranko knew how to give his dancers deep emotions and serious acting to “sink their teeth into.” He was also a master choreographer, in particular in his astonishing pas de deux, which feature intricate and spectacular maneuvers. At the heart-melting end of Act I, in which Tatiana writes her love letter to Onegin, Cranko ingeniously conceives of Onegin as appearing in a dream to her after she falls asleep. In her dream, he is everything she wants him to be: loving, romantic, kind. As the ballet continues, again through Cranko’s deft handling of Pushkin’s story, we come to find that Onegin is not any of these things Tatiana imagines. At the end of the ballet, Cranko conceives of another pas de deux in which Onegin begs for Tatiana’s forgiveness. Now, as very real, mature, and flawed human beings, Onegin and Tatiana repeat many of the maneuvers from the Act I dream scene but with a more grounded, earthier and, at times, broken quality. These are just several of Cranko’s innovations throughout the ballet.

I was lucky to dance both leading and supporting roles in a number of Cranko’s ballets, but never in Onegin. Perhaps this is why I have been so passionate about it throughout my career. Tragically, Cranko died unexpectedly in 1973, only eight short years after creating this masterpiece of a ballet. I often wonder where his creative process would have taken him next, had he lived longer. Still, in his absence, we are left with a body of work that boggles the mind. I am grateful to Jane Bourne, who staged Onegin on Ballet West; to Reid Anderson, who coached the company in the ballet; and to Dieter Graefe, who oversees Cranko’s legacy through the late choreographer’s trust. I’m also particularly grateful to you for joining us for this brilliant ballet. I hope you leave the theater as inspired as I am every time I see Onegin.




Scene One: Madame Larina’s garden

Madame Larina, her daughter Olga and the nurse are sewing the party dresses for Tatiana’s birthday and gossiping about the upcoming festivities. Madame Larina speculates on her daughters’ future. Girls from the neighborhood arrive and play an old folk game: whoever looks into the mirror will see her beloved.

Lensky, a young poet engaged to Olga, arrives with a friend from St. Petersburg. He introduces Onegin, who, bored with the city, has come to see if the country can offer him any distraction. Tatiana, full of youthful and romantic fantasies, falls in love with the elegant stranger, so different from the country people she knows. Onegin, on the other hand, sees only a coltish girl who reads too many romantic novels.

Scene Two: Tatiana’s bedroom

Tatiana, her imagination aflame with impetuous first love, dreams of Onegin and writes him a passionate love letter, which she gives to her nurse to deliver.



Scene One: Tatiana’s birthday

The provincial gentry have come to celebrate Tatiana’s birthday. Onegin finds the company boring. Stifling his yawns, he finds it difficult to be civil; furthermore, he is irritated by Tatiana’s letter, which he regards merely as an outburst of adolescent love. In a quiet moment, he seeks out Tatiana and, telling her that he cannot possibly love her, destroys her letter. Tatiana’s distress, instead of awaking pity, merely increases his annoyance. Prince Gremin, a distant relative of Madame Larina’s, joins the party. He is in love with Tatiana and Madame Larina hopes for a brilliant match; but Tatiana, troubled with her own heart, hardly notices her kind relative.

In his boredom Onegin decides to provoke Lensky by flirting with Olga, who light-heartedly joins in the teasing. Lensky takes the matter with passionate seriousness and challenges Onegin to a duel.

Scene Two: The duel

Tatiana and Olga try to reason with Lensky, but his high romantic ideals have been shattered by the betrayal of his friend and the fickleness of his beloved; he insists that the duel take place. Before Tatiana’s eyes, Onegin kills his friend.



Scene One: St. Petersburg

Years later Onegin, having travelled the world in an attempt to escape from his own futility, returns to St. Petersburg. He is received at a ball in the palace of Prince Gremin. Gremin has married, and Onegin is astonished to recognize in the stately and elegant princess, Tatiana, the uninteresting little country girl whom once he rejected. The enormity of his mistake and loss engulfs him. His life now seems even more aimless and empty.

Scene Two: Tatiana’s boudoir

Onegin has written to Tatiana revealing his love and asking to see her, but she does not wish to meet him. In vain, she pleads with her unsuspecting husband not to leave her alone this evening. Onegin comes and declares his love for her. In spite of her emotional turmoil, Tatiana realizes that Onegin’s change of heart has come too late. Before his eyes, she tears up his letter and orders him to leave her forever.


warm ups

Join us in the O.C. Tanner Legacy Lounge on Tier 3 one hour before the show for Warm Ups. A member of the Ballet West Artistic Staff will discuss the background of Onegin, and highlight moments to look for in the performance.