John Cranko

November 22 – 26, 2023

John Cranko

November 22 – 26, 2023
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John Cranko’s extraordinary Onegin is a ballet which the very best artists of our age aspire to perform. A dance drama beloved for its rich characterization, musicality and passionate vocabulary, Onegin is based on Alexander Pushkin’s 19th-century verse novel Eugene Onegin and tells a nuanced story of unrequited love. Onegin is set to a gorgeous selection of music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and was redesigned in 2010 with period sets and costumes by Santo Loquasto and lighting by James F. Ingalls.

Onegin Trailer

The Story

Eugene Onegin, an urban aristocrat, visits the countryside out of boredom and attracts a young woman, Tatiana. When Tatiana expresses her love for Onegin in a letter, he rips it up and amuses himself by flirting with her sister Olga, fiancée to his friend Lensky – an act of casual cruelty that ends in tragedy. Many years later Onegin and Tatiana meet again and he realizes that he has loved her all along. But Tatiana rejects him, knowing their time has passed.

Five Things to Know
  1. 1John Cranko created Onegin for Stuttgart Ballet in 1965 when he was Artistic Director there. He revised the ballet in 1967 and it is this version that forms the basis for his Onegin today.
  2. 2Cranko chose not to use Tchaikovsky’s opera score for Onegin. Instead, he commissioned a new arrangement of lesser-known music by Tchaikovsky, particularly his Compositions for Piano.
  3. 3The National Ballet commissioned Santo Loquasto to redesign Onegin for the 2009/10 season, once the original sets and costumes were too fragile to use. Loquasto’s design adheres to the original Russian period of the production, but with a romantic interpretation suited to Cranko’s choreography.
  4. 4The National Ballet first performed Onegin in 1984 under Artistic Director Reid Anderson, who went on to lead Stuttgart Ballet for 22 years. Anderson was a notable Onegin himself and has staged Cranko’s ballets internationally.
  5. 5The National Ballet’s production of Onegin was filmed for television in 1986 by Primedia Productions and the CBC. Directed by Norman Campbell, the film won the Silver Medal in the Performance Arts category at the Houston International Film Festival.
Watch and Explore

Onegin View Gallery

The Choreographer

Born in South Africa, John Cranko danced with The Royal Ballet and choreographed some of the finest examples of the 20th-century story ballet. Works such as Romeo and Juliet, Onegin and Taming of the Shrew are richly characterized, dramatic and musical, and are performed by the world’s top ballet companies.

The Composer

The late 19th-century Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky created some of the most popular works in the classical repertoire, particularly his three full-length scores for ballet: Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. His work includes full-length operas, multiple symphonies and concerti.


“An emotionally rich work of art” – The Globe and Mail

“A glorious, heartstring-touching sobfest of a ballet – complete with fatal duel – and the National’s dancers play it for all it’s worth.” – Toronto Star

“It's impossible not to get swept up in this foreboding autumn world… All things combined, this Onegin is pure magic” – The National Post

“Perfect marriage of movement and music” – The Ballet Review


Three Act Ballet by John Cranko
Based on the Novel by Alexander Pushkin

Music: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Arranged and Orchestration by Kurt-Heinz Stolze

Set and Costume Design: Santo Loquasto

Lighting Design: James F. Ingalis

Staged by: Jane Bourne

Supervised by: Reid Anderson

Copyright: Dieter Graefe

World Premiere: Stuttgart Ballet, Stuttgart, Germany, April 13, 1965

The National Ballet of Canada Premiere: O’Keefe Centre (now Meridian Hall), Toronto, June 14, 1984

This production entered the repertoire on June 19, 2010.

Onegin is generously supported by an anonymous friend of the National Ballet.

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