Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.

Tosca in San Francisco

Yet another Tosca is hardly exciting news, if news at all. The current five performances have come just two years after SFO alternated divas Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette in the title role.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Vsevolod Grivnov as Lensky and Ekaterina Semenchuk as Olga [Photo by Robert Millard for LA Opera]
02 Oct 2011

Eugene Onegin, Los Angeles

Kudos to the Los Angeles Opera Company for expanding its heretofore limited Russian repertoire and opening its 26th season with Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. The romantic work based on the novel in verse of the same name by Alexander Pushkin, is likely everyone’s favorite Tchaikovsky opera.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin

Eugene Onegin Dalibor Jenis; Tatiana: Oksana Dyka; Lensky: Vsevolod Grivnov; Olga: Ekaterina Semenchuk; Larina: Margaret Thompson;Filipievna: Ronnita Nicole Miller; Gremin: James Cresswell; Trinquet:Keith Jameson. Orchestra and chorus of the Los Angeles Opera. Conductor: James Conlon. Original Production: Steven Pimlott (deceased). Original Director: Steven Pimlott. Director: Francesca Gilpin. Scenic and Costume Designer: Antony McDonald. Lighting Designer: Peter Mumford. Original Choreographer: Linda Dobell (deceased). Choreographer: Ulrika Hallberg.

Above: Vsevolod Grivnov as Lensky and Ekaterina Semenchuk as Olga

All photos by Robert Millard courtesy of LA Opera

 

Kudos too, for having presenting the work in a production created by the late Stephen Pimlott for the Royal Opera House and the and the Finnish National Opera (more about this later) which, though it sparked discontent at its 2006 London premiere, introduces a new view of the tale.

Whereas Pushkin narrated his lengthy lyrical poem filled with wit, cynicism, and psychological insights, Tchaikovsky and his librettist Konstantin Shilovsky reduced the work to intimate scenes focused directly on their principal characters. In both versions, however, the story is set at a time when rank and status mattered, when women were essentially powerless. Eugene Onegin, the eponymous protagonist (one can’t call him a hero) of the work, is the wealthy neighbor of the widow Larina and her young daughters, Olga and Tatiana. Onegin, who has wandered the world, lives the dissolute life of a Byronic Don Juan, and carries himself with the aristocratic mien of Jane Austen’s Mr. D’Arcy, is introduced to the Larin household by the poet Lensky, in love with Olga. The three woman, attended by a nanny, live as did Elizabeth Bennett, a modest country life. But in this story, it takes only a glance for young Tatiana to fall in love with the elegant Onegin. The same night, unable to sleep, overflowing with passion and impetuosity, she writes a letter to Onegin offering him her heart.

When the two meet the next morning Onegin honorably, but coldly returns the humiliated girl’s letter and rejects her love. Later, bored at a local ball, he flirts with Olga and incenses Lensky to the point where the poet challenges him to a duel Lensky is killed and Onegin returns to his aimless wandering life. When, in Act 3 Onegin and Tatiana meet again, she is the wife of a prince. Now it is Onegin who will write a letter and plead for love. Tatiana first upbraids him for his past cruelty, then confesses that she still loves him. But refusing to renounce her vows, she leaves him alone to his despair. Is this a story of payback, as one reviewer described it? Is it about class and caste? Is it about a country girl’s solid values, set against the nihilism of a sybaritic life? Or does it reflect as many Pushkin scholars believe, the battles raging within Pushkin himself? It should not be surprising to find new interpretations of the work.

Though not a cast well-known to American opera goers, Los Angeles assembled four stellar principals with knowledge of the language and familiarity with their roles, which always brings a a sense of ease to a production. Baritone Dalibor Jenis was a full voiced, if somewhat stiffly mannered Onegin, until the last scene when rejected by Tatiana, jacketless and unkempt, he seemed to me a maddened Don Jose. Oksana Dyka’s role as Tatiana took her in an opposite emotional direction. In voice and manner she made the transition from love starved teen ager to mature woman convincingly. I loved tenor Vsevolod Grivnov’s ringing top voice as Lensky’s but sometimes I think I love every tenor as Lensky. Mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk sang Olga, and Margaret Thompson, her mother, Larina with assurance and ease. There were three young American artists in the cast. Ronnita Nicole Miller as Filipievna, the nanny, has a rich voice wonderfully under control. James Cresswell sang Prince Gremin’s aria with magnificent sonority and hit the low notes, but still lacks that “innerness” that brings subtlety and shading. Keith Jameson was a silky voiced Trinquet.

eon8344.pngDalibor Jenis as Onegin and Oksana Dyka as Tatiana

In the emotion-filled dramatic scenes that Tchaikovsky set, not only the characters, but his music speak directly to our hearts. Conductor James Conlon led the orchestra in a pulsing, radiant performance.

Pimlott’s intelligent production deserves a review of its own despite some incomprehensible stagings: why Tatiana writes a letter bursting with passion while bent over on the floor, I’ll never know. And why the glittering third act “polonaise” is performed before a scrim depicting death, remains a mystery to me. Suffice it now to say that with this production Pimlott introduces us to Pushkin’s narrative viewpoint. Aided by Antony McDonald’s sometimes outlandish costumes and Peter Mumford’s always dramatic lighting, he gives us something of Pushkin’s distant view of his characters by staging the action as though painterly images set within a frame.

One last word about Tchaikovsky’s music. Tatiana, Lensky, Gremin and Onegin have the four great arias of this opera. Leaving the theater, I could recall snatches of the first three, all of which declare love, but not of Onegin’s. His is the one about rejection.

And one other last word to thank Placido Domingo and the Opera Company for including a touching tribute to Salvatore Licitra in its program.

Estelle Gilson

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):