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Munich Staatsballett: Onegin

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Friends and I went to Munich last week to see Vladimir Shklyarov, Mariinsky principal dancer, in what I think was his 3rd appearance as Onegin. 

Mariinsky principals tend to guest infrequently in full length ballets so when Shklyarov joined the Bayerische Staatsballet as a guest principal a couple of seasons ago it was, for an ardent fan like myself, an irresistible opportunity not only to see him closer to home but also in roles that are not part of the Mariinsky repertoire. 

Shklyarov’s performances in the classics are always worth watching. Whilst he may not have quite the amazing level of virtuoso dancing of a Kimin Kim, he is an intelligent, committed, and passionate performer, an excellent partner with an irresistible on stage charisma and a beautiful line. Many of these qualities were in evidence when he guested as Ospiova’s partner with the Royal Ballet last season in Manon and Marguerite and Armand. The former performance was particularly notable given that it was his debut in MacMillan which requires a somewhat different skill set to the largely traditional classical ballet repertoire that is the principal business at the Mariinsky. I felt that Shklyarov surmounted the challenges of the risk taking partnering and more detailed acting with great skill to turn in memorable performances, no doubt aided enormously by both the quality of the coaching available in the Royal Ballet and the greater experience of his partner. 

In his first two performances of Onegin, Shklyarov partnered a long time Staatsballet principal dancer, Ivy Amista and although on both occasions the act 1 mirror pdd was not perfect, we enjoyed the performances enormously and the final pdd was very satisfying. Given that this was not a debut, I went with an expectation of an even better performance. But this performance of Onegin was I believe almost a year since Shklyarov last danced the role and recently he has been busy in St Petersburg and Samara. His previous partner Ivy Amista was not available so the role of Tatiana was taken by Ksenia Ryzhkova who trained at the Bolshoi school and was previously at the Stanislavsky. 

Shklyarov as expected was excellent in terms of stage presence and solo work, his back and arms being particularly beautiful. Ryzhkova is a good dancer and was convincing in her portrayal of the naive, young Tatiana although she failed to differentiate her significantly from the mature, married woman of the last act. In the ballroom pdd with her husband, Prince Gremin her expression reminded me of that in Act 1 and her acting generally in Act 3 did not really rise above the two dimensional. 

But that aside I think a memorable performance of Onegin hangs on the execution of the pdd which need complete technical mastery so the performers have the confidence to act and in this respect they fell short. In the mirror pdd, rather than being the ardent lover of Tatiana’s fantasy, Shklyarov was concentrating on the technicalities and it was apparent he needed to do this because one or two of the lifts were a struggle to manage. The last pdd started well but by half way through the lifts looked decidedly fudged. There’s an enormous difference between on the edge, risk taking partnering and the fudged under rehearsed variety and in the latter case it’s hard to feel moved when you’re worrying that something might go very wrong. 

The Staatsballett resident principal and British trained couple, Lauretta Summerscales and Jonah Cook turned in excellent performances as Olga and Lensky. We had seen both of them dance the roles before, last time Jonah Cook made a rather nervous debut but this time he was much improved and his performance of the exposing pre duel solo was very creditable. Lauretta Summerscales is a confident and pretty dancer who acted well. Their partnership had real chemistry and their pdd were well executed. 

The Munich audience were hugely appreciative and there were many many enthusiastic curtain calls. 

In summary, whilst we enjoyed it and were not sorry to have gone, we felt that the performance as far as Onegin and Tatiana were concerned looked rather more like a rehearsal and whilst this may in fact have been unlucky rather than under rehearsed it felt like the latter. It’s a tricky strategy to bring in high profile guest stars to dance roles that they don’t have in their home company repertoire, it can work as I felt Shklyarov showed in his performances of Manon but it almost certainly means that the importance of the company coaches with a long performance history themselves and adequate rehearsal time cannot be understated. 






Edited by alison
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I missed Shklyarov's second Onegin, but I too thought his partnership with Ivy Amista was much better. Ryzhkova was "too Russian", like in the big lift in the mirror pdd, where she did not soar like a blissful young girl, but like a triumphant queen, like when Onegin returned her letter in the second act when she looked insulted instead of heartbroken. And I don't like the Tatianas who look so happy in the Gremin pdd as they were in the mirror pdd - why should she even consider falling for Onegin again if she is so blessed with her husband? A quiet, small, melancholic smile works much better for her character here (I remember Adam Cooper's Gremin at London, in very few moves you could see how unhappy Tatiana must be with her strict, Karenin-like husband). Not a good portrait by Ryzhkova.

Lauretta Summerscales was great, wonderful pirouettes, but Jonah Cook is far from the danseur noble qualities of a Friedemann Vogel or Vladimir Malakhov as Lensky - and he overacted badly when Onegin accepted the duel in act 2. Coming from Stuttgart, I was rather disappointed by the lack of detail (and unison!) in the corps de ballet - the girls and boys in the first act who just stand and look at each other instead of chattering among themselves, the much-to-broad smiles in the polonaise where they are supposed to be a cold, haughty society.

But I loved Shklyarov in the final pdd! So intense, so deep, so shocked to the bone when she sends him away. I wish he would dance the role more often because you can see he really loves it and works on it, there is so much Pushkin in his interpretation. He really is an actor, not only a classicist. Yes, for the pdds you need the same partner and many performances so they will glide and flow. But how honest and sensitive he plays the role! I was very impressed and touched. Looking forward to his Onegin #4 😍

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Lovely to read about the Onegins in Munich thank you.  I am shortly to see Onegin in Berlin and shall report back!  In the meantime I see Osipova and Hallberg are guesting in Onegin on 13th April - the ballet festival week in Munich.  

I am really hoping Onegin will be revived at the Royal Ballet for 19/20 and I personally put a "bid in" for Onegin with Mr O'Hare when I got a chance recently!

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16 hours ago, Angela said:

Lauretta Summerscales was great, wonderful pirouettes, but Jonah Cook is far from the danseur noble qualities of a Friedemann Vogel or Vladimir Malakhov as Lensky 


Angela, I agree with you on both of these points. I haven’t had the good fortune to see either Vogel or Malakhov as Lensky but I didn’t mean to imply that Jonah Cook possesses the danseur noble qualities of my own memorable Lensky’s: Semyon Chudin and Vadim Muntagirov. 

I’m spite of my disappointment this time I still feel that Shklyarov has a lot to give as Onegin. Before the casting of Tatiana was announced I was really hoping for Osipova or Shklyarov’s wife Shirinkina, I think it would have been a completely different experience. Maybe next time or even with Lauretta Summerscales now she has made her debut. 

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Yes, Chudin was a great Lensky - the most musical dancer I remember in the role, and full of dignity, though very immersed in himself. But a personality, where Jonah Cook was just another young lover. Malakhov was a poet, he had that Pushkin quality, too. And a terrible haircut when he danced the role at Munich, Lensky with a mullet 😨 😊 Long, long ago...

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Thanks for these reports on Onegin in Munich. I would very much wish to see Shklyarov in this role and would love to see him back in London. 


Hope me to hear more reports of Onegin in due course.

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