Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
At the close of "Eugene Onegin," which opened the Stuttgart Ballet's three-week run at the Kennedy Center Opera House Tuesday night, the crowd took to its collective feet with a veritable fusillade of "bravo," in an unmistakably spontaneous out-burst. It as easy enough to see why. The company, the finest classical ballet troupe in continental Europe, has never looked better.
If this was a sample of the new era begun last year with the appointment of ballerina Marcia Haydee as director, the company's future looks bright indeed. "Onegin" has been staged here by the Stuttgart numerous times. Yet Tuesday night both the production and the ensemble looked rejuvenated, literally - younger, fresher, more ardent than ever.
The company began the engagement shrewdly by putting its best and strongest out front. The cast principals included most of the troupe's best known, most artisically mature dancers, and all of them appeared to be in superb fettle. In "Onegin," we were treated to the most consistently impressive full - length ballet drama by a choreographer - John Cranko - whose specialty was dramatic ballets. In short, this was a first-rate work in a first-rate performance, which is a little hard to beat.
The dancing was a reminder of the very special qualities of the Stuttgart approach. The Cranko repertory, and the newly revitalized legacy of Cranko's teaching, have given us a company of dancers who can articulate a dramatic unfolding of emotion with their bodies. Their movements almost approximate poetic dialogue in eloquence and rhetorical precision. And it is not just the "star" who are so endowed, but the entire company from top to bottom. Their movings figures "speak" in one style, one accent, and with a beautifully coherent dramatic focus.
The principals were in peak form. As Tatiana, Haydee evolved from a gravely impressionable girl into a woman transfigured by passionate forbearance. Richard Cragun, dancing with particular fire and elegance, had just the right mixture of scorn and impetuosit as the cynical Onegin. Egon Madsen and Lucia Isenring were spendid as the hapless bystanders, Lensky and Olga, and Reid Anderson was a fittingly august Gremin. The acting all around was exemplary - stylish yet unforced, restrained yet eminently clear in tone and feeling.
One could celebrate any number of additional virtues - the dramatic lucidity of Cranko's choreography; the lyrical potency of the Tchaikovsky score, so sagely chosen and arranged (from micellaneous piano, operatic and orchestral pieces) by Kurt-Heinz Stolze and expertly conducted by Stewart Kershaw; and the wonderfully inspired period decor by Jurgen Rose. The point, however, is clear - this was a great way to get started.