This week, I attended a performance of Eugene Onegin, a ballet set to the music of Tchaikovsky, Russia’s composer of late romanticism. The ballet appeared at Belgrade National Theatre with prima ballerina Tatjana Tatić in the lead role of Tatiana. My seat in an upper bay above the stage, provided an interesting perspective for observing the dancers.
A Russian literature classic, Eugene Onegin was created by poet and writer Alexander Pushkin. Tchaikovsky’s opera of the same name is based on Pushkin’s “novel in verse” which is also performed as a ballet. Lydia Pilipenko, a Serbian post-war prima ballerina of the National Theater, choreographed the ballet.
Although the National Theatre is open, performances have been limited because of covid. I had a ticket for Michelangelo, another ballet about the life and work of the great Renaissance artist. The performance was choreographed and directed by Slovakian author Mário Radačovský. Sadly, it was cancelled.
“Eugene Onegin is a story of love, loss, rejection, and despair, and is still seen as one of the most beautiful and lyrical works in Russian music and literature today.”
Belgrade National Theatre
The Belgrade National Theatre was founded in the 19th century and is located in Republic Square. A symbol of Serbian culture, tradition, and spirituality, the theatre is a venue for opera, ballet, and drama. The National Theatre was declared a Serbian Cultural Monument of Great Importance in 1983.
Pushkin’s popular satirical novel is described as “beautifully symmetrical”. It’s composed of a series of “short impressionist scenes”. The main characters are “young aristocrat Onegin, Lenski, a passionate young poet, Olga, Lenski’s charming romantic interest, and her older sister Tatiana, a layered, melancholic person, obsessed with romantic books”. The ballet is set in three acts during nineteenth century St. Petersburg Russia. The acts are summarized below.
Tatiana meets Eugene Onegin, a friend of her sister’s beau, Lenski. She falls in love with Onegin, writes a love letter to him, and waits for his response. Pushkin portrays Onegin as a “cold and conceited young man touched by Tatiana’s passionate declaration of love for him” but unable to accept it. He only offers her friendship. Tatiana is distraught over his rejection.
Exceptional prima ballerina, Tatjana Tatić, is known as a “ballerina who lives every girl’s dream”.
Tatiana’s family hosts a large celebration on her name day, and Lenski invites his friend Onegin to accompany him. Onegin accepts but becomes bored and gets “annoyed after finding himself trapped at the tedious party”. He “takes his revenge by flirting and dancing with Olga, Lenski’s fiancé and Tatiana’s sister“. Lenski’s “jealousy is aroused to such a height, that he challenges Onegin to a duel”.
Before the duel, Lenski, Onegin, Tatiana, and Olga express dramatic reflections on love, life, and death. The dancing is magnificent! Although Lenski and Onegin are “full of remorse”, neither stops the duel, and Lenski is killed.
After the duel, Onegin travels abroad for several years. He returns to St. Petersburg, and at a ball, Prince Gremin introduces him to his young wife. Onegin is “astonished to recognize her as Tatiana and realize that he’s in love with her”.
Onegin sends a passionate love letter to Tatiana and begs her to run away with him. Tatiana rejects him and refuses to leave her husband, Prince Gremin.
Tatjana Tatić Ballerina
All of the dancers exhibited impressive strength and talent during the challenging performance! There were no programs, so except for Tatjana Tatic, I don’t have names of the other key dancers who performed so brilliantly. Renowned Tatić is from Pancevo Serbia. At twenty-five, she’s “achieved almost everything that can be accomplished in the art of ballet”.
Choreographer Lydia Pilipenko doesn’t condemn “human shortcomings or excesses in the Onegin ballet”. She successfully uses “complex choreographic and dramatic interpretations to express all the complexities and contradictions that make up life itself”.
Tatic has played the main role in many productions, “shared the stage with the world’s most famous ballet dancers, and performed worldwide”. Regardless of her fame, she’s “still a modest girl who enjoys her home on the banks of the Tamiš River in Pancevo and wants to continue living and working in Serbia”.
The evening was pure magic. I enjoyed every minute!