Today, „Onegin“, the most important ballet created by John Cranko, celebrates it’s jubilee: in it’s finally version it has become 50 years now! Worldwide the audience loves this literary ballet drama based on the Russian novel „Eugen Onegin“ totally – and Stuttgart Ballet has he honour to show the jubilee performance with: Friedemann Vogel (Onegin), Alicia Amatriain (Tatiana), Elisa Badenes (Olga), David Moore (Lensky), Jason Reilly (Gremin) – and surprisingly Marcia Haydée herself as special guest (nurse). Marcia, who created the main role of Tatiana and danced in 1967, so now gives her debut as Tatiana’s nurse. Isn’t that touching? And there are so much more interesting facts about „Onegin“… Ballett-Journal asks coming ballet boss in Stuttgart Tamas Detrich for details of history and personalities.
Ballett-Journal: You danced „Onegin“ once yourself, and before you saw it when you were a student in Stuttgart. Please tell me in how far your view onto this masterpiece had changed.
Tamas Detrich: This masterpiece never fails to astound me. The first time I saw Onegin was at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1975: It was pure magic and I was enchanted by the story telling. I’ll never forget the moment when Onegin walks out of the mirror in the famous “Mirror-Pas-de-Deux”. On the vast stage of the Met (I had a standing room ticket at the back of the third tier) Onegin appeared larger than life – I was mesmerized and I truly believed it was a mirror until he walked out of it. And of course I saw Marcia Haydée dance for the first time – unforgettable. Shortly afterward I auditioned for the John Cranko School and came to Stuttgart – and here I am!
What has changed for me from that one special moment is that afterward I grew up with this wonderful ballet and had the privilege to be a part of it in every aspect.
I was so fortunate to dance in the corps de ballet and to experience the magic of this ballet from within, with wonderful role models and brilliant artists such as Marcia, Richard Cragun, Egon Madsen und Reid Anderson (unsurpassed in the Gremin Pas de Deux) on stage right next to me. I truly felt honored to be on that stage with them.
Afterward I was coached as Lensky and subsequently as Onegin from all the dancers that John Cranko had created the ballet for. This brought me very close to John although I never met him in person. My understanding of this masterpiece grew with each moment I invested – the hours of sweat and effort in the rehearsals – in learning and growing as an artist through all the amazing roles this ballet offers.
Ballett-Journal: Since then you have seen so many dancers dancing in it! Great ballerinas and ballerinos, and I cannot count them all. Would you please give me some impressions, some memories onto special performances?
Tamas Detrich: Each time a new company dances „Onegin“ there is a new and individual life to it. It is always very rewarding to work on it and then watch the results. I have coached many principal dancers in this ballet all over the world and it is always fascinating to see the hunger each artist has when he or she approaches not just the remarkable choreography but also the emotional challenges of each main role. Each dancer digs deep down into himself or herself to accomplish what this ballet demands of them – this is what makes it so fulfilling to dance and ultimately to watch. It simply is not possible to pick out individual dancers, there have been too many great dancers, too many stellar performances mainly because this ballet has the power to bring artists beyond their limits!
I have seen that so often and so often been just blown away by what has been achieved. But of all the dancers in the world, one name must surely be mentioned: Marcia Haydée.
Every time she was onstage as Tatiana, it was as if the ballet had never before existed but was happening for the first time. She was different each night, with every different partner. I recall so many performances in which I danced Lensky with her and Richard and the moment when I kissed her hand before going to my death is etched upon my memory as if it were yesterday. In that moment Tatiana stands totally still but Marcia’s body was so very expressive – she was rigid with despair.
As hugely admirable as all the other companies are – and what truly fantastic performances of „Onegin“ there are all the time the world over every season! – I do believe that the Stuttgart Ballet has a deeper understanding of this ballet, through our tradition in which the information is handed down from one generation to the next and the frequency with which we perform it.
In future it will be my obligation to continue this tradition and of course I will strive to do so!
Ballett-Journal: How would you name the value or the meaning of this piece in ballet history? Isn’t it one of the most modern dramas about love between men and women we have in classical modern ballet in our times?
Tamas Detrich: „Onegin“ is a modern classic, a masterpiece of the 20th century which will live on as one of the great dramatic ballets.
Just as „Swan Lake“ or „Giselle“ have established themselves in the international repertory, so has „Onegin“.
It is perfect in all aspects: the structure, choreography, storytelling, musical composition, development of the characters, the pacing and especially the inevitable emotional resonance with any audience that watches it.
Ballett-Journal: Would you please remember a very personal „Onegin“ moment?
Tamas Detrich: An anecdote: My first time ever on stage with the Stuttgart Ballet was in „Onegin“ – I was one of the boys in the first act. I was actually still a student in the Cranko School at the time, about to join the company. It was April 18th, 1977 and it was Marcia’s birthday. I will never forget that day!
The reason this is relevant is because my very last performance with the Stuttgart Ballet was in „Onegin“, as Onegin! It was July 25th, 2002 and it was my birthday! And that „ending“ was just the „beginning“ of my life today as ballet master and, as of September 2018, as Intendant.
Ballett-Journal: So many birthdays on stage! Happy birthday now for „Onegin“ and all best wishes also for Stuttgart’s future in ballet! Thank you so much, Tamas Detrich, for answering.
Interview: Gisela Sonnenburg
Jubilee performance: today, 7:30 in Stuttgart (Opera House)!
Also absolutely magic, „Onegin“ with Jason Reilly in the title role and Hyo-Jung Kang as Tatiana – and again with Marcia Haydée as nurse: tomorrow, same time, same place