Five-minute Primer: Meet the Five Main Characters of Onegin

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Cranko’s Onegin, based on Pushkin’s dramatic novel in verse, is all about the complexities of human relationships. While the ballet also boasts stunning production values and beautiful choreography, it’s the story of unrequited love between the two main characters—Onegin and Tatiana—that makes this story so powerful and ultimately, relatable.

Keep reading to find out more about the five main characters of Cranko’s ballet, plus musings on each of the characters by the dancers who perform these roles.

Cast of Characters

Onegin: Onegin is a cynical and self-centered aristocrat and when we first meet him, he’s bored by city life and looking for distraction. Principal Dancer Vitor Luiz, who has performed the role with SF Ballet and Ballet do Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janerio, describes how people react to the character of Onegin: “People go in with an expectation to know who Onegin is. And I think it’s a tricky moment—Onegin is not a very pleasant person. [Male dancers] are used to being young and happy and pleasant and he’s the opposite.”

Vitor Luiz in Cranko's Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

Vitor Luiz in Cranko’s Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

Tatiana: When we first meet her, she is a young, naive country girl who dreams of the city but by the end of the ballet, she’s grown into a mature woman with a strong sense of integrity and honor. Principal Dancer Vanessa Zahorian noted, “My interpretation of Tatiana when she’s younger is that she’s sort of a shy bookworm who daydreams a lot and lives in her imagination. But as she ages, she becomes confident in her own skin and I admire how strong she is. For me, this role is multi-faceted and meatythere’s a lot of depth of emotion to layer on top of the expressive choreography.”

Vanessa Zahorian in Cranko's Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

Vanessa Zahorian in Cranko’s Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

Lensky: Lensky, a poet and a dreamer, is engaged to Olga. Principal Dancer Gennadi Nedvigin characterizes him as, “young, and very romantic, sensitive. I can’t think of any other ballet with that kind of character in it.” Nedvigin read Onegin growing up in Russia and read it again before its SF Ballet premiere in 2012, “It’s so light; you’re just floating through the text. I wish everyone could read it in Russian because it makes more sense and is much more enjoyable.”

Gennadi Nedvigin in Cranko's Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

Gennadi Nedvigin in Cranko’s Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

Olga: Olga is Tatiana’s sister, and though engaged to Lensky, she is aware of her beauty and likes to flirt. Of the character, Principal Dancer Dores André  says, “She’s very innocent and very romantic…I think she gets mesmerized by everything. She’s very excitable [and] like a kid, very naive.”

Dores André in Cranko's Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

Dores André in Cranko’s Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

Prince Gremin: Prince Gremin, an older and distant relation to Tatiana, is in love with her and they eventually marry. Principal Dancer Pascal Molat notes that the prince is “a loving and giving guy, who truly loves Tatiana and is comfortable in giving her the space she needs to come around and eventually marry him. He is very caring and protective of her and a good husband and provider.” Adds Principal Character Dancer Rubén Martín Cintas, “Gremin is an absolute gentleman and caretaker by nature. He gives Tatiana the security she needed so badly after her pain of being rejected by Onegin.”

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

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

Principal Dancer Maria Kochetkova, who also read Pushkin’s book growing up in her native Russia, thinks Cranko got the ballet version just right: “[Cranko’s Onegin] is spot on. It’s so smart and it’s really close to the book. All the little moments are so perfect you feel like it would be hard to do something different.”

SF Ballet performs Onegin, April 30-May 8. For more information, visit sfballet.org.

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