Natalia Makarova made her American debut last night in a role that would seem to be hers by birthright. It was. She's Russian and so is Tatiana, the pivotal character of "Eugene Onegin" which has been the Stuttgart Ballet's signature production of this and past Kennedy Center seasons. John Cranko's choreography for Titania is Russian, too, with its arabesques shot like arrows into space and supple, soaring lifts that aren't too contrived.
Titania, as Makarova embodies her, is more introspective and impulsive than observant and orderly as in performances by Marcia Haydee, the role's great creator. Both interpretations bring this Pushkin heroine to life, first as the shy girl in love with the aloof Onegin and then as the mature woman who rejects his advances despite a lingering passion.
In the lifts, Makarova has a plasticity and simplicity that have seldom been seen since the days of Galina Ulanova, the Soviet ballet's assoluta. She moved her body in a single pulse and with an uninterrupted pliancy that, together with her temperamental characterization, made this a fabulous performance.
The Stuttgart's reliables-Egon Madsen as the sunny and stormy Lensky, Ruth Pappendick and Hella Heim as the older women, Reid Anderson as the man who marries Titania-have kept their characterizations fresh over the years. Sylviane Bayard danced Tatiana's lively sister, with strength and bounce. Onegin, an ambiguous role, has little dancing. Richard Cragun used its few chances to the hilt, and his acting had dignity if not depth. Stewart Kershaw gave a passionate reading of Kurt-Heinz Stolze's Tchaikowsky score. After years of seeing German ballet that was tense and expressive, "Onegin" was significant in recapturing the classical ease and elegance that had been lost after World War I. The work deserves its place in the permanent repertory.