Eifman Ballet adapts Pushkin novel in 'Onegin'
The 19th-century Russian classic is updated to Moscow in the 1990s.
Author: Caroline Palmer
Date: April 25, 2009
Publisher: Star Tribune
Over the past 33 years choreographer Boris Eifman has developed his brand of emotionally charged contemporary ballet theater, earning acclaim in Russia and abroad. This weekend the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg returns to Northrop Auditorium for a special event - the world premiere of "Onegin," an adaptation of the 19th-century Alexander Pushkin novel. The work, however, does not rise to the occasion, despite the best efforts of a talented cast.
Although Eifman kept intact Pushkin's tale of unrequited love and heartbreaking compromise, he changed the setting to post-coup 1990's Moscow. The reason for this choice -- if political or cultural -- is never apparent beyond the first scene, and seems to serve only as an excuse to inject a rock vibe driven by Alexander Sitkovetsky's hair-band influenced score. Eifman also uses compositions by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, including excerpts from his opera "Eugene Onegin."
The main problem resides with Eifman's interpretation of Pushkin's story. By fast-forwarding in time, the choreographer had an opportunity to update, or at least comment upon, its messages. Instead, he remains literal and relies on its dated notions of women as beautiful possessions over which men do battle, which clashes with the contemporary context.
Tatiana (Maria Abashova) yearns for the worldly Onegin (Oleg Gabyshev), who rejects her. When Onegin kills his friend Lensky (Dmitry Fisher) in a duel over Olga (Natalia Povoroznyuk), he spirals into despair and does not emerge until he sees Tatiana again, only by then she's made over and married to the blind Colonel (Sergei Volobuev). Onegin is interested now, but Tatiana, fighting desire, remains loyal to her husband, who then literally carries her away.