Instant Expert: Onegin

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Maria Kochetkova in Cranko's Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

Maria Kochetkova in Cranko’s Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

Here are four quick facts that will make you an Onegin expert even if you’ve never seen the ballet before, let alone stepped inside the War Memorial Opera House. Invite friends to the performance and mention these tidbits to impress your guests.

How Do You Say Onegin?
First things first, Onegin is pronounced oh-nye-gen. We often hear “one-gin”—as in the number “one” and “gin” as in the drink—and sometimes even a variation of “on-eh-gain.” While it isn’t intuitive to a native English speaker, the Russian pronunciation is the correct way.

Pushkin’s Tormented Love Life *SPOILER ALERT*
Russian poet Alexander Pushkin is frequently considered one of the biggest names in Russian literature, and it’s worth noting that one of the most dramatic scenes in his narrative novel-in-verse eventually played out in his own life. In the narrative, Lensky challenges Onegin to a duel when he sees his fiancée flirting with the title character. Onegin agrees, albeit reluctantly, and mortally wounds Lensky.

About 10 years after the poems are published, Pushkin found himself in the very same situation. Upon discovering his wife’s affair, a jealous Pushkin challenges Frenchman Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d’Anthès to a fatal duel, ending the great Russian author’s life at the age of 37.

Onegin the Antihero
Onegin is one of the few full-length ballets with a male antihero. The title character, Eugene Onegin, is self-absorbed and sometimes difficult to relate to because of his arrogant personality. Most full-length ballets in SF Ballet’s repertory, and ballet in general, are filled with mostly female protagonists (Swan Lake, Coppélia, Cinderella) and male leads who are much more charming. We rarely find such an unpleasant character like Onegin.

San Francisco Ballet in Cranko's Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Cranko’s Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

Russian Opulence
Cranko’s Onegin is not only a choreographic gem but also a visual treat. The lavish costumes and sets in SF Ballet’s production were designed by Santo Loquasto, who has received three Tony Awards and four Drama Desk Awards to date.

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