The one thing you should see this week: a ballet about a bad boy who gets his comeuppance

The one thing you should see this week: a ballet about a bad boy who gets his comeuppance

Aleksandar Antonijevic and Sonia Rodriguez in Onegin (Image: Bruce Zinger) 

This week’s pick: Onegin

It’s a tale as old as time. Good girl falls for bad boy, bad boy works his way through a laundry list of caddish manoeuvres—mocks good girl’s affections, flirts with her sister, kills the sister’s fiancé in a duel (you know, the usual)—before realizing the error of his ways. Russian author Alexander Pushkin was heavily influenced by Romantic heavyweight Lord Byron when he wrote the verse novella Eugene Onegin in 1883. Pushkin’s Onegin is forged in the Byronic mold (i.e. catnip to the ladies): cynical, arrogant, self-interested—all traits that he retains in choreographer John Cranko’s beautiful 1965 adaptation set to music by Tchaikovsky.

Despite the ballet’s title, the audience’s allegiance lies with Tatiana, the country girl who gives her heart to Onegin unreservedly, only to be rebuffed. When Onegin encounters Tatiana years later (after all the sister-wooing and fiancé-slaying is said and done) at a ball held by her prince of a husband, he is struck by her sophistication and gives chase. Tatiana’s anguished rejection of him—an echo of his youthful dismissal of her—is the show’s finest scene. Despite her lingering feelings for Onegin, she rips up his love letter and ejects him from her world. It was a moment that had the opening night crowd at the Four Seasons Centre bursting into spontaneous applause last June, and it’s the moment that is likely to inspire the same swell of emotion when the National Ballet reprises the production at the end of this week.

N.B. Though the exquisitely matched Jiří Jelinek and Xiao Nan Yu won’t be dancing the principal parts this time around, rising star McGee Maddox will be taking the lead at the Saturday matinée, just as he did to thunderous acclaim last summer. Catch him if you can.

The details: March 17 to 20. $21.50–$201. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W., 416-345-9595, national.ballet.ca.