Monday, May 20, 2013

Onegin: Kin of Don Draper?

David Hallberg. Photo: Gene Schiavone
All props to Mad Men's Matthew Weiner for crafting a searing modern tragedy that's as visually indelible as it is dramatically. But watching ABT's Onegin got me wondering... was Don Draper inspired by the unlikable Onegin?

They both are ladies' men, of a sorts. Ennui is their middle name. They both have sadistic streaks. They're both control freaks. They tend to win stand offs, verbal or ballistic. They're both involved with letters tainted with regret. They both wear black and white with panache. They'll both die unhappy and alone, most likely. Hallberg has the hauteur, sang-froid, and beauty to convince, just as Jon Hamm does for Don Draper. 

It's funny, when you think about it, there aren't that many truly despicable lead male roles in the ballet canon (there are grippingly evil ones, like Von Rothbart in Swan Lake, the Sorcerer guy in Ratmansky's Firebird, and Death in The Green Table, all of which have been danced by Hallberg), but if you can think of any, post a comment. Some are caddish, lazy, or unmotivated, but Onegin is just a bad dude. He rejects the affections of Tatiana, flirts with her sister Olga, provokes Olga's beloved into a fit of jealousy capped by a duel challenge, and offs him. Years later, jealous and alone, Onegin tries to win back Tatiana after she is happily married. 

Joseph Gorak, also in Splitsville. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor
The rest of the leads filled out a solid bill. Polina Semionova, as Tatiana, has perhaps the most thankless dramatic role, moping and being ignored for a good spell, until she emerges as her happier married self in a ruby-red dress. Semionova has lovely, long lines and pairs well with Hallberg, but her dramatic portrayals could use some development. Yuriko Kajiya dances Olga with her typical delicacy and sweetness; your heart can't help but flutter and sing when you see her (and yes, bird analogies are inevitable. Happy birds.) And Joseph Gorak's impeccable technique and pristine lines are on full view in the role of Lensky. It's truly exciting to see talent and role match up so fortuitously. And how reassuring to see Hallberg back onstage after dealing with an injury last year that prevented him from appearing at Jacob's Pillow with Jonah Bokaer, among other performances.

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