Based on Alexander Pushkin's poetic novel Eugene Onegin, the ballet Onegin is set to music by Tchaikovsky and performed in three acts. Choreographer John Cranko adapted the poem to ballet and it was first performed in April 1965 in Stuttgart. Onegin has been met with critical acclaim and is regarded to be one of modern ballet's greatest adaptations. The version performed today is a further re-working that Cranko made in 1967.
Act One, Scene One sees the characters Olga, Madame Larina and the nurse excitedly preparing for Tatiana's forthcoming birthday celebrations with Madame Larina in a wistful mood as she recollects her own lost youth and beauty. Olga's fiance Lensky, a poet, arrives for the celebrations with Onegin, a young man from the city who is bored with his life and seeking new experiences in the country. Tatiana instantly falls for the worldly gentleman from the city but Onegin regards her as a simple country girl. Act One Scene Two is set in Tatiana's bedroom and sees Tatiana in a state of infatuation with the handsome gentleman from the city. Overwhelmed with the flush of first love Tatiana writes an impassioned love letter and presents it to her nurse to give to Onegin.
In Act Two Scene One we are taken to the celebrations for Tatiana's birthday party. All of the countryside gentry have turned out to celebrate with Tatiana and they gossip about a possible romance starting between Onegin and Tatiana. Onegin finds the whole situation boring and is unable to hide his disdain. He is also annoyed by Tatiana's letter, which he regards as the ramblings of an infatuated adolescent. He finds Tatiana and tells her that he will never love her and tears the letter up. Madame Larina's choice of suitor for Tatiana, Prince Gremin, is also at the party but the distraught Tatiana barely notices his presence. Bored Onegin provokes Lensky by flirting with his fiance Olga and this results in Lensky challenging Onegin to a duel. The second scene in Act Two sees Olga and Tatiana trying to dissuade Lensky from the duel. However Lensky is determined to see out his challenge. The duel ends in tragedy with Onegin killing his friend and this makes Tatiana realise the foolishness of her infatuation, she sees Onegin for what he really is.
Scene one in the final act of Onegin is set in St Petersburg some years later. Onegin arrives at the palace of Prince Gremin after travelling the world and is amazed to find the now older Tatiana married to the prince. Transformed from a girl from the country into a beautiful and elegant young princess Onegin regrets his treatment of Tatiana. Tatiana's boudoir is the setting for the final scene in the ballet where we find Tatiana reading a love letter from Onegin. He comes to her room wanting to know if she can ever love him but is disappointed when Tatiana reveals that although she still has feelings for Onegin she would never be able to find happiness with him. Tatiana orders the heartbroken Onegin to leave forever.