It was clear from the response at the Kennedy Center Opera House last night that the Stuttgart Ballet's public was getting exactly what it was waiting for, with the company's first presentation during the current visit of John Cranko's "Eugene Onegin." This was, after all, the kind of thing on which the Stuttgart troupe had built its reputation - a handsomely mounted, taut and passionate dance drama, set in olden times and executed with impeccable style and theatrical savvy.
The enthusiasm was fully justified, both by the work and the performance, despite the pulled tendon that kept ballerina Marcia Haydee from performing as scheduled and obliged Birgit Keil, Vladimir Klos and Guy Pontecorvo to substitute for Haydee, Richard Cragun and Reid Anderson.
Keil was an appealing Tatiana, transforming herself from the love-struck dreamer of the first act to the woman of secret sorrow in the last, through a wide range of nuance. If the portrayal seemed a bit muted, especially in the climactic turbulence of the final pas de deux, it had an admirable delicacy throughout.
Klos looks so much the disdainful Onegin, with those arched brows and marked cheekbones of his, that he was ahead of the game to start, but his acting and dancing lived up to appearances as well. Madsen was in excellent form as Lensky, imbuing those stretched, crosswise stances of his first-act solo with the last ounce of ardent longing, and dancing brilliantly the whole evening.
The part of Olga calls for a certain sweet normalcy in contrast to Tatiana's dark turmoil, and Susanne Hanke filled the bill invigoratingly. Pontecorve was an aptly earnest patrician as Gremin, and the entire company showed us the sort of integrated dramatic composure for which the Stuttgart is justly celebrated.
Other factors in the evening's success included Jurgen Rose's entrancing decor, the excellently arranged Tchaikovsky score, and Stewart Kershaw's sensitive conducting.