On Good Friday at the Coliseum I got to live all the Russian novels I have loved and devoured: the Eifman Ballet’s Eugene Onegin – cornerstone of Russian literature and identity. The St Petersburg troupe have given this story of love, passion and loss a modern finish, retaining all the simmering emotions and feverous longing that makes Pushkin’s novel-in-verse of 1833 such an immortal classic.

Yevgeny Onegin is the dandy-about-town, reveling in all the ballets, operas, alcohol and damsels that St Petersburg has to offer. He eventually grows tired of this consumptive existence and escapes to the country, where he befriends the ever-romantic youngster Lensky, betrothed to the gorgeous daughter of a local landowner– Olga. On a visit to the family – to which Onegin is dragged by his friend – ugly duckling and sister to Olga, Tatyana, sees and falls deep in love with our hero.

In true Russian style, she pours her heart onto paper, declares love and resigns her fate to him. She is rejected and has to endure him flirtating with her sister on her name day ball – a cheap shot by him to annoy Lensky. Full of rage, Lensky challenges Eugene to a duel, in which the younger man dies.

The sisters move to Moscow and years go by. Tatyana turns from duckling into  swan and jewel of Society. Onegin returns to the capital and is bedazzled by her, this beauty he had previously rebuffed. Now it is his turn to put soul to paper and feel the frosty wind of rejection.

Boris Eifman has worked magic with the myriad of worlds and textures created with the stage, lighting and costumes. The show ebbs and slows between sequences where stage is filled with the twenty to thirty odd ensemble members, to scenes in which only one or two dancers spellbind us with elegance, precision and power.

The music similarly alternates between classical and a very much rock-infused sound; between pastoral peace and the heaving, grinding seediness of Moscow’s nightclubs. Eifman wisely chose to leave the reading of Tatyana’s declaration of devotion to Onegin in Russian, without any sort of translation for us Brits in the audience. It thus kept it a non-verbal performance, leaving that Russian essenc we came for.

Most beautiful is the symbiosis between two dancers – be it Eugene and Tatyana, Eugene and Lensky or Lensky and his Olga – as they meld and glide around each other like one organism. Ballerinas we expect to be graceful and flexible. But when we see the physique of a man executing moves with just as much elegance it is something even more marvelous. The lead ballerina was a touch too tall and assured in her movement as how I imagine the mousy Tatyana to be. But who cares – it was stunning.

This trip to the English National Opera could not have been more different from the usual evening out in the West End. Different crowd, different atmosphere, different culture. Even I dressed up for the occasion. The majority of attendees were our Russian brothers and sisters, clothed in splendour – their intention to be seen.

There was a glittering taste of the elite in the air, made all the more dazzling by that intimidating beauty which no-one but the Russian female possesses.

The party in the box behind us sipped Rose Champagne and after the interval moved on to vodka.  This was London no more. The ballet left me uplifted and euphoric and dying to go back.