Universal Ballet


World Premiere Stuttgart Ballet at The Staatstheater Stuttgart, Germany, 1965
Universal Ballet Premiere The LG Arts Center on September 11, 2009
Libretto John Cranko after a novel by Alexander Pushkin
Choreography John Cranko after a novel by Alexander Pushkin
Music Peter I. Tchaikovsky arranged and orchestrated by Kurt-Heinz Stolze
Arranged for Universal Ballet Kurt-Heinz Stolze
Staging Jane Bourne
Set Design Thomas Mika
Costume Design Thomas Mika, Maren Fischer
Lighting Design Steen Bjarke
Composition 6 scenes and 3 acts
Running Time 2 hours 30 minutes

Onegin is gripping ballet drama, based on a Russian novel by Alexander Pushkin, and supported by a sumptuous Tchaikovsky score. 

The ballet premiered in April 1965 at the Stuttgart Ballet, set to a score skillfully crafted by Kurt-Heinz Stolze from musical works of Tchaikovsky; Along with Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan, John Cranko, who choreographed Onegin, is considered one of the most successful choreographers of narrative dramatic ballets in the 20th century, leaving behind, at the end of his short career, definitive versions of Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew, along with Onegin. Onegin has been performed in the repertory of major companies all over the world, including the Paris Opera Ballet, Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and National Ballet of China. 

The drama in the production demands much of its dancers; in addition to polished technique and intricate partnering, the poignancy and heartbreak in the love scenes require well-honed acting ability. Tatiana’s innocence and Onegin’s flippant hypocrisy are just the beginning. As the drama of the piece turns new corners, each character is pressed to show us new emotions. Each of Cranko’s pas de deux adds a new layer of emotion to the story: Tatiana dreams of Onegin as she writes a letter to him, full of passion. Olga and Lensky’s pas de deux is more light-hearted, Tatiana’s pas de deux with Gremin, whom she has married during Onegin’s extended absence, is formal and stately, and the final dramatic pas de deux between Onegin and Tatiana contains all the passion, pain and strength of their love and their now separate lives. 

Universal Ballet’s production of Onegin features set and costume designs first seen in performances by the National Ballet of China in 2008. With the subtle colors and classic lines of the costumes, designer Thomas Mika seeks to draw us wistfully into the charm and splendor of 19th century Russian aristocracy. Though Onegin is hailed as the best dramatic ballet work of the 20th century and is a frequent entry on many peoples’ lists of ‘must see’ ballets, opportunities to see the ballet in performance are few and far between. The John Cranko Estate, which manages the licensing of the production, takes great care to grant performing rights only to ballet companies who have sufficient depth on their rosters to handle the dramatic demands of the lead roles, and with two pairs of principle characters in the cast (Tatiana / Onegin & Olga / Lensky), there is not a large number of ballet companies internationally who are up to the task. 

Universal Ballet first applied to the foundation for a license to stage Onegin in 1992, eight years after the company’s founding, and after waiting a few years, following performances by the National Ballet of China in 2008, Universal Ballet secured a license and premiered Onegin in September 2009, making it the first Korean ballet company and the 2nd ballet company in Asia region with Onegin in its repertory. Since its premiere in 2009, Universal Ballet has revived Onegin in 2011, 2013, 2017, 2020 and 2022.