Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

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):