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[Herald Review] Revival of ballet with impassioned ‘Onegin’

Kang Mi-sun and Lee Dong-tak, taking on the role of Tatiana and Onegin, respectively, dance a pas de deux in “Onegin.” (Kim Kyoung-jin/Universal Ballet)
Kang Mi-sun and Lee Dong-tak, taking on the role of Tatiana and Onegin, respectively, dance a pas de deux in “Onegin.” (Kim Kyoung-jin/Universal Ballet)

Universal Ballet successfully presented “Onegin,” the first full-length ballet to go on the stage in Korea in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Onegin,” a drama of tragic love, went onstage from July 18 to Sunday at the Chungmu Arts Center in central Seoul.

The drama ballet created by celebrated choreographer John Cranko is based on Alexander Pushkin’s novel “Eugene Onegin.” Kurt-Heinz Stolze arranged the music for the production, editing various works by Tchaikovsky. It had its premiere in 1965 by the Stuttgart Ballet based in Germany.

Since then, “Onegin” has been regularly practiced by prestigious ballet troupes across the world, appreciated for its theatrical elements and distinctive characterization. It premiered in Korea in 2009, performed by Universal Ballet.

The story revolves around jaded city aristocrat Onegin, who comes to the countryside and meets Tatiana, the sister of his friend Lensky’s fiancee Olga. Tatiana instantly takes affection for Onegin. Onegin, however, is disinterested in her and tears her love letters into pieces at Tatiana’s birthday party.

Onegin is bored, and he decides to provoke Lensky by flirting with Olga. Lensky, offended by Onegin’s actions, challenges him to a duel, and the tragedy begins.

One of the highlights is the mirror scene in the first act. In a dream, Tatiana looks into a mirror and sees Onegin staring back at her. Unlike the real Onegin, the Onegin in her dream loves her back. The two dance a beautiful pas de deux.

Instead of an actual mirror, a large black frame is installed onstage. When Tatiana looks into the mirror, the reflection is actually another dancer who copies her movements.

Another pas de deux to look out for in “Onegin” is the pas de deux of regret from the third act, which wraps up the story. In sorrow, Onegin and Tatiana bid goodbye to each other.

Universal Ballet’s 155-mintue “Onegin” was the first full-length ballet show to be held in Korea since the coronavirus outbreak. The troupe began its 2020 season in June at the Ballet Festival Korea with “Ballet Gala & Aurora’s Wedding,” but did not present a full-length ballet work at the time.

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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