“I am not a robot!” [Royal Ballet: Onegin]

Up until last night I was utterly convinced I’d seen Onegin in May 2011 on the same day that I bought my first (and only) pair of pointe shoes – I could even tell you I was wearing my skinny jeans and Space Invaders hoodie for the occasion. Except it turned out that I hadn’t seen Onegin then at all – I’d seen a mixed bill featuring Scènes de ballet, Voluntaries and Rite of Spring (with Edward Watson as the chosen one). In fact I’d seen Onegin back in October 2010 as my first ballet of the Royal Ballet’s 2010/11 season. I’m not quite sure what this says about anything except that when I tried to bring Onegin to the forefront of my tiny mind I found… I couldn’t quite recall it at all. Not to put too fine a point on it: after last night I will never be saying that again.

It seems quite odd that in all my years of ballet going and sitting up on the roof of the amph (because that’s the only place I can stretch the budget to if I want to see everything), I had never invested in a pair of binoculars (or opera glasses) for the occasion. Instead I preferred to run off the ~feelings emanating up from the stage. Given that I managed to sob heartbrokenly throughout the entire second act of a Cojocaru/Kobburg Giselle without binoculars I dread to think what I’d’ve been like with a pair. That aside, I have taken the tiny step of investing in a pair of binoculars and, oh my, what a first ballet to see with them.

The budget stretches to seeing one of everything and that makes choosing my cast so very, terribly important. I dither a lot over it, going backwards and forwards weighing up the relative merits of who’s dancing what on which day I can do. But there’s one particular pairing that I keep coming back to again and again. We’ve talked before (many times) about the funny things Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares do to my ovaries, if they hadn’t already finished them off then last night really, genuinely and utterly did. I’m talking about completely bowled over, not breathing, ALL THE FEELS AT ONCE type death of my ovaries. I just… I can’t even… GAHHHHHHHHHHH.

I debated being brave before seeing the ballet this time and reading the Pushkin novel. Then I realised it was in verse and then it appealed less. Then I also remembered that I’m still completely incapable of watching either Manon or Don Quixote as a result of university. Anyway, I guess if you want intelligent literary discourse on the subject, you could do a lot worse than checking out Lovely Dave’s intelligent post on the subject.

I’m really not sure where to begin to talk about Onegin. I guess I’m just still quite bowled over by all those ~feelings. The ballet opens in the garden on the eve of Tatiana (Nuñez’s) birthday shindig with Olga (an adorably enthusiastically girlishly giddy Meaghan Grace Hinkis), Tatiana burrowed deep in her novel and really not all that interested in the world around her despite Olga’s best efforts. Then Olga’s bloke, Lensky (the incredible Valentino Zuchetti) rocks on up bringing his pal Eugene Onegin (Soares) with him. Onegin swirls in all haughty and Colin-Firth-as-Mr-Darcy-at-the-Netherfield-ball disdainful. Olga and Lensky are adorbz and, after a quick stroll of the grounds, Tatiana falls flat on her face in love with Onegin, writes him a letter spelling out all of her intimate ~feels and then THE MIRROR PAS DE DEUX. Woah. Just WOAH.

Act 2 opens at the birthday shindig with some jolly dancing and everyone generally quite happy and content. Until Onegin rocks up and breaks Tatiana’s heart by ripping up her letter and basically just going ‘nah, blod, not for me’. NO, ONEGIN, NO. Anyway, Tatiana’s too cut up to notice her mother trying to set her up with Prince Gremin (distant relative, relative bigwig played with stately panache by Riyochi Hirano). Onegin decides to be a complete douche at this juncture and gets all flirty-dancey with Olga and Lensky takes complete umbrage. In fact, Lensky is a total drama queen and gets on his moralistic honourful high horse and challenges Onegin to a duel. NO LENSKY, YOU IDIOT, EVEN TATIANA AND OLGA CAN SEE THIS IS THE MOST STUPID IDEA YOU’VE EVER HAD. So the boys go off to duel LIKE FOOLS, Tatiana and Olga try to stop them but it’s no good. Lensky’s hobby horse is so high he can’t see the wood for the trees and then Onegin shoots him. AND YOU MAY AS WELL SHOOT ME WHILST YOU’RE AT IT, ONEGIN.

Act 3 cuts to several years later when Onegin returns after years in the wilderness (metaphorical probably), aimlessly travelling the world trying to get over himself (and failing). He rocks on up to Prince Gremin’s party only to discover he’s got himself married to Tatiana. In an instant you see Onegin’s world crumble for a taste of ifs, could haves, would haves, should haves. YES, ONEGIN, YOU FOOL, TOO LATE. Tatiana and Gremin have this adorable, comfortable kind of relationship. I doubt the earth moves for them but the dressing table might have twitched once or twice. But then, despite her pleas, Gremin leaves her for the night and I go off him temporarily because that’s when Onegin rocks back up into Tatiana’s life. And, oh my, that final pas de deux. If you don’t get anything from that then you’re even more robotic then I am. And when Tatiana rips up Onegin’s letter and banishes him from her life forever? Well, love, you may as well have just ripped my heart out whilst you were at it.

The cast was completely perfect, I chose so very well. Meaghan Grace Hinkis’ Olga is adorable – wide eyed and girlish, her Olga is all out to have fun and enjoy living in the moment. She loves Lensky, she truly does and her distress over the whole duel fandango is heartbreaking. Valentino Zucchetti’s Lensky is impressive – light and bouncy in his jumps, his Lensky is not quite a ‘man of the world’ but one bound by his morals and ideals (if albeit a little naively), with a strong sense of what he perceives to be ‘right’ (and did I mention how amazing his jumps are?). Riyochi Hirano’s Prince Gremin is stately, solid and all kinds of reliable (he might be a prince but you’d trust him to put up a shelf without bringing the supporting wall down). He’s an incredibly attentive partner – the Act 3 pas de deux with Tatiana is breathtaking.

And then, oh then, we come to Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares as Tatiana and Onegin. And here… here I can’t even… I have to close my eyes as I try to remember it. That passion, that love, that ~feeling. THE PAIN, OH THE PAIN. There was a little (well, biggish) part of me that wanted their Tatiana and Onegin to run off into the sunset together but that would’ve ruined the entire ambience. Marianela’s Tatiana is an utter joy from naïve young girl, through her first heartbreak to a well grounded young woman who, in the end, knows she has to let her head rule over her heart no matter how much this pains her. And Thiago’s Onegin is truly a tour de force: a tortured, slightly indecisive soul who doesn’t quite know what he wants and doesn’t quite know what to do to be happy. All the emotions, all the feels! AND THEN, as if I wasn’t dead enough already, at curtains after coming up from her reverence Marianela turned and gave Thiago the giantest bear hug EVER and… I died. I officially died. Do you know how hard it is not to squee publicly over something like that? I just… I love them. They could dance round in circle for days on end and I’d be captivated. Just… yeah.

Oh what it is to ~feel.

Also, you should totally check out Dave Morgan’s photoset of their dress rehearsal. Serious hnnnnnnnnnnnng.

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