Onegin, Royal Ballet, Monday 16th February 2015 7.30pm, Royal Opera House Main Stage
Amphitheatre Left, Seat B34, £15 (restricted view) - excellent value seat, small corner of stage obscured
This ballet has an extraordinary power which only truly shows itself towards the end. The first time I saw it, not even all that long ago, I was young enough to fall under the spell of Eugene Onegin myself; this time, though his attraction is potent and understandable, I found my slightly more mature self seeing through his facade, observing the absurdity of his manner in this already melodramatic story, astonished at the lack of any redeeming characteristics to this wondrously cruel man. Golding plays up the comic aspects of the character, the presence of which I did not see before. Unconvinced at first, I quickly decided that this was in fact an extremely effective interpretation, possibly more nuanced than the more obvious simple reserve. But, then again, maybe this was simply my desire to read more into Golding than was there - he is difficult to pigeonhole. Technically, tonight he was breathtaking and Osipova - as ever - managed to spur him to greater heights with her own limitless energy. Everyone ought to get a chance to dance with her, if only to improve their own dancing! The wild abandon she seems to have as she throws herself into Golding's arms suggests a reason for her number of injuries, and yet, though the risk is there, she never allows her technique to falter. One lift was missed in the initial bedroom-dream episode, but the energy of the scene was such that no one could care. There is less in Tatiana for Osipova to get her teeth into regarding her acting and, though terrifically moving throughout, she only showed her true potential in that final pas de deux. It is this final scene that makes the ballet a success, frankly. The majority of the lead-up to this climax has a strange tension between lighthearted comedy and passionate, demanding pas de deux, the variations falling somewhere in between but, when he reaches those heights, Cranko can be simply sublime, and his manipulation of corps formation is incredible. Naghdi made a suitably endearing Olga, working well with Ball, but Ball himself was disappointing. Though moments - the beginning of his final variation, for example, and some of his acting - were lovely, his technique is still in many ways at student level and he does not look up to the standard of a stage like this. His flexibility is poor enough to affect his line and turnout, and it really is not acceptable to remember one's technique only after a move has gone wrong because of the lack of it. His pretty face has done a lot for him, it seems.
Overall, this ballet is difficult to summarise. The first two acts do need more, and yet the finale is so powerful that it makes everything else fade into the background anyway.