Onegin at the Staatsballett Berlin: a triumph for Saidakova!Danspubliek on 04.Jun.2011 19:08
Onegin at the Staatsballett Berlin: a triumph for Saidakova!
Success is mostly assured when a company performs Cranko's most succesful ballet Onegin:
Pushkin's marvellous story; Stolze's wonderful adaptation of (mostly piano pieces) by Tchaikovsky;
Cranko's unmatched dramaturgy and irresistible choreography (lovingly staged by Jane Bourne and
Reid Anderson) assure a well spent evening at the theatre.
A company of the calibre of the Staatsballett Berlin obviously wants to offer a bit more than just
that and convincingly did: on Saturday May 22nd the rare miracle of art communicating deepest
human feelings was realized in front of a deeply touched and exultant audience!
The performance was carried by the peerless interpretation of Nadja Saidakova, since the premiere
on November 9th 2003, the company's first cast Tatiana. I myself was able to see a lot of
interpretations of the role, including Natalia Makarova's, but the natural sense, the boundless
musicality and all the subtle nuances next to all despair and passion make Saidakova's
interpretation an artistic highlight rarely achieved. The fascination, the fear and the confusion, the
alternation between hope and doubt, the blissfulness of desire, all those contradictory emotions that
a human being experiences when being touched by love for the first time, this all was being
expressed by Saidakova so full of human vulnerability, that the thrill of it is again perceptible for
me just by writing these words.
In the second act the collapsing of her hope and expectations: indescribable is the expression on her face while waiting for the outcome of the duel between
Onegin, her great love who so grievingly turned her down, and Lensky, the fiancé of her sister!
In the third act she realises Pushkin's text perfectly:
She moved without any fuss at all,
Not coldly, nor full of useless talk,
Without a haughty glance or look
Without pretensions to success,
Or the least suspicion of haughtiness,
Or imitative coquetries...
All in her was simple and serene.
She seemed the perfect living queen
Of comme il faut...
But how fragile is man in a world conducted by good manners, material security, external shape and
elegance: Tatijana's confusion after reading Onegin's letter, her desperate clinging to her husband
who briefly visits her boudoir and the heartrendering dilemma during her last encounter with Onegin,
all this was so touchable and thrilling, that a lady, completely unknown to me, who sat beside me,
was squeezing my hand during the final pas de deux! Thus was the audience completely enthralled
by Saidakova's interpretation, already after the first act when the lights in the auditorium went on,
the audience did not stop applauding unwilling to let go of the fascinating and exalting events on
the stage. This so exceptional artistic interpretation places Saidakova in one line with ballerinas as
Ulanova and Maximova, who always shared human vulnerability and dignity with their audiences
and who were never concerned to impress with unnecessary virtuosity!
That last thing was a problem with Dinu Tamazlacaru's debut as the poet Lensky. His technical
mastery was impressing more than the rapture of being in love, the fury over the offensive
behaviour of his fiancée Olga and his friend Onegin, the desperation of the beautiful solo before the
duel in the second act. Though technically extremely demanding, this solo has the potential to share
as much human emotion with the audience as Tatjana does in her scenes, one need to think only of
Jeremy Ransom in the 25 year old televised performance of the National Ballet of Canada. Thus
Tamazlacaru impressed without moving us. And though it is honorable of Vladimir Malakhov to
step aside to give chances to his younger dancers, his beautifully poetic and boldly dramatic reading
of the part, with his unique legato dancing is greatly missed!
The role of Olga is in Cranko's ballet not as subtle as in Tchaikovsky's opera, where she is singing
in such a beautiful and touching way her lighthearted innocent hopes of a cloudless future. Still Iana
Salenko gave a convincing portrait of Tatiana's frivolous and reckless sister! While the audience
was so fascinated by Saidakova's portrait of Tatiana's psychological development, Leonard Jakovina
as Gremin, her husband, remained practically invisible, which fitted very well though in the
Finally, there was Mikhail Kaniskin's debut as Onegin. He had the ungrateful task of following
Saidakova's former partner Roland Savkovic in a role, where the latter with his hollow cheeks and
sunken eyes, already had the perfect physical appearance and used to give an interpretation
artistically not far below Saidakova's.
Kaniskin, a dancer with a very pure technique, who usually has a congenial stage appearance, had
the difficult duty to portray this taxing character. During the first performance he succeeded
partially, his best were moments of aristocratic but shallow elegance. The sardonic plagueing at
Larin's house were Onegin is driven by feelings of boredom and disdain were still remote to his
somewhat virtuous stage personality and also during the last desperate duet, he was still
overshadowed by Saidakova's emotional depth.
But during the second performance of this cast an admirable development was shown by Kaniskin:
his irritation and annoyance during the second act were already much more legible, an ashtonishing
feat in such a short time, giving the drama an extra dimension and making Cranko's artful
theatricality even more touchable!
The corps de ballet in the first and second act - where carefree youthful joy is needed - felt definitely more at home than in the aristocratic ballroom in the third act, where
a more regal bearing is appropriate. Maturity is not a hallmark of the Berliner corps de ballet, the
dancers are generally disciplined and move synchronous, but there is a remarkable lack of 'weight'
in their movements, the carriage of neck and head and the use of the arms and hands are generally
below par. (This is not only a problem here, there are nowadays very few companies, if at all,
besides the Mariinsky and the Bolshoi, where the corps de ballet posesses mature and individual
personalities!) In the group dances of the first act Iana Balova took the attention through her
enthusiasm and radiant presence, one could imagine her as a future vivacious Olga.
Finally, it is a pity that nowadays most dancers, especially the women, do not learn how to walk
properly on stage. Only Saidakova, running with beautiful fast little steps towards her partner, still
has a mastery of this art. Even Salenko was running with enourmous steps over the stage, her lovely
arches flying up behind her! It is incrompehensible that even in a company of the very highest rank
as the Berlin Staatsballett undoubtely is, no attention seems to be paid to this so important matter!
Still, Berlin is worth a trip when it comes to ballet!
This retaking of Onegin was received with thunderous applause from a very grateful audience, rhythmical
clapping, lots of bravo's and especially brava for Saidakova! Pushkin, Tchaikovsky and Cranko are timelessly present and as up to date as ever!!
(As seen on 21/5 and published on www.danspubliek.nl)