Soaring Opera hits new heights in Tchaikovsky's 'Eugene Onegin'
Joshua Kosman, Chronicle Music Critic
Friday, November 26, 2004
Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" is a story of strong emotion accommodating itself, painfully but with resigned acceptance, to external reality. Dreams of romantic love prove untenable, or merely mistimed; passionate friendship is fatally betrayed in a thoughtless instant.
The ache of that clash courses through the San Francisco Opera's superlative new production of the piece, which opened Wednesday at the War Memorial Opera House.
Boasting a first-rate cast and the most affectingly restrained work the company has yet offered from director Johannes Schaaf, this sumptuous and precisely etched production crowns a fall season that has truly been something close to miraculous -- the most consistently excellent lineup the company has assembled in many years.
One only has to think back to the drab and proudly unimaginative production that the company last offered in 1997 to grasp how far things have come. In this "Onegin," vocal splendor and theatrical resourcefulness work together at last to create a vividly compelling musical drama.
And Tchaikovsky's adaptation of Pushkin's novel in verse requires just such sensitivity to nuance on everyone's part. The plot, taken in isolation, traces a fitful and inconclusive path; what matters is the realistic musical exploration of the characters' inner lives, the tug of naive idealism against the forces of the external world.
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A Captain — Ricardo Herrera
Filipyevna — Annett Andriesen
Madame Larina — Susan Gorton
Monsieur Triquet — John Duykers
Prince Gremin — Gustav Andreassen
Eugene Onegin — Russell Braun
Tatyana — Elena Prokina
Olga — Allyson McHardy
Lensky — Piotr Beczala