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Alexander Pushkin
25 Mar 2007

Eugene Onegin — English Touring Opera

London is fortunate to have played host to several productions of Tchaikovsky’s best-known opera in the last three years alone, most recently British Youth Opera’s heartbreakingly fresh account last September – so it was a risky decision on ETO’s part to stage yet another.

Eugene Onegin

English Touring Opera, Hackney Empire Theatre
London, 15 March 2007


Director James Conway chose to focus on the opera’s themes of lost opportunity and the contrast between dreams and shattering reality. Joanna Parker’s very simple reflective set gave a wistful, faded beauty to the stage, while the ‘snow’ for the duel scene was formed of a devastated mass of pages torn from Tatiana’s romantic novels. As Tatiana, Amanda Echalaz provided, rightfully, the opera’s emotional core. She knew how the cripplingly shy provincial Tatiana should walk and move; she knew how to update the character by seven years and several steps up the social ladder without losing her original identity. In recent years, Echalaz’s ETO appearances alone have earned her an exciting reputation; from a slightly one-dimensional performer with a hugely promising dramatic voice, she has developed into a versatile artist with impressive depth of interpretation.

Roland Wood, in the title role, gave a more sympathetic interpretation than most; it was clear that his stiffness and propriety were rooted in self-awareness. His tenderness towards Tatiana was obvious from the start; for once I found myself ‘knowing’ Onegin as well as I always feel I ‘know’ Tatiana.

Michael Bracegirdle’s Lensky didn’t seem at ease on stage, and his singing was monochrome and somewhat forced; as Olga, Marie Elliott was also a little stiff without the necessary weight in her lower register. Gremin’s aria should be the centrepiece of the final act, but Geoffrey Moses failed to bring it to life.

At the start there seemed to be a difference of opinion between the musical and dramatic moods; Michael Rosewell’s tempi were brisk from the outset, while the opening scene was dramatically almost over-restrained. This turned out to be a perfect piece of dramaturgical planning; emotion and passion burst into vivid life at the start of the Letter Scene. The chorus, a good size by ETO’s standards, sang and danced stylishly so it was a great shame that they were the chief victims of a catalogue of unnecessary musical cuts.

Ruth Elleson © 2007

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