Pyort Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin, opus 24
Simon Keenlyside (Eugene Onegin), Krassimira Stoyanova (Tatyana), Tom Rackett (Young Onegin), Vigdis Hentze Olsen (Young Tatyana), Pavol Breslik (Lensky), Elena Maximova (Olga), Diana Montague (Madame Larina), Kathleen Wilkinson ((Filipyevna), Peter Rose (Prince Gremin), Christophe Mortagne (Monsieur Triquet), Jihoon Kim (Zarestky), Michel de Souza (A Captain), Elliot Goldie (A Peasant), Luke rice (Guillot), The Royal Opera Chorus, Renato Balsadonna (Chorus Master), The Royal Opera House Orchestra, Robin Ticciati (Conductor), Kasper Holten (Director), Mia Stensgaard (Set Designer), Katrina Lindsay (Costume Designer), Wolfgang Göbel (Lighting Designer), Signe Fabriscius (Choreography), Jonathan Haswell (Video Director)
Recorded at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (February 11, 2013) – 154' (2 DVDs)
Opus Arte Catalogue #: OA 1120 D (or Blu-ray OA BD7132 D) – Liner Notes in English, French, & German – Subtitles in English, French, German, Japanese, Italian, & Korean – Audio Format: LPCM 2.0 – DTS Digital Surround – Picture: 16:9 Anamorphic – All regions
This 2013 production of Eugene Onegin is certainly not deprived of interest but it will not make history. Lots of good things, mostly in the music and acting departments. Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova is a stunning Tatyana. She delivers a sensitive and deeply nuanced performance, especially in her moving account of the letter scene. Simon Keenlyside is certainly one of the best baritones of his generation, and an excellent actor. However, his performance in this Covent Garden production, as laudable as it is dramatically, is musically bland. Nothing really stands out in the singing. We certainly have heard a better Keenlyside. Slovak tenor Pavol Breslik is an ardent and intense Lensky, with a secure and well-timbred tenor. Peter Rose (Prince Gremin) is perfect in his portrayal of Tatyana's elderly husband. Elena Maximova is a commendable Olga with just the right amount of lightheartedness and insensitivity. She is probably at her best in her flirtatious dancing with Onegin.
Although the concept is fairly daring, the direction by newly appointed ROH Opera Director Kasper Holten reveals weaknesses. The idea is that the principals are looking back on their missed opportunities. Hence, this uncomfortable idea to have (brilliant) dancers on stage portraying the young Lensky, Tatyana, and Onegin, while Breslik, Stoyanova, and Keenlyside sing their parts. Yet again, we have a director who does not the trust the material he has. This is a perfect opera that does not call for directorial falderal to achieve its dramatic impact. All is there, in the music, and in the words. If it fares acceptably with the letter scene (Tatyana is reminiscing her younger years), and somehow with the duel in Act 2 (Onegin looks back to his dandy thoughtlessness), it literally falls apart from there on. With dancers acting out their parts as the young heroes, and singers acting and singing simultaneously, the result is disconcerting. And why, if I may ask, does Lensky's corpse have to remain visible till the end? Wouldn't the big dead tree limb he drags on stage before the duel, have sufficed? And why, if I may ask again, have Prince Gremin witness Tatyana's ultimate struggle in the last scene? Isn't it awkward to have her overtly confess that she is staying with Gremin out of duty?
Besides this major setback, there are a couple of nice touches, one of them being to throw Onegin in the midst of ballerinas during the "Polonaise," desperately trying to grab one of them. Another one is to have Act I's cotillion set offstage so we can concentrate on Tatyana and Lensky first encounter. But that is about all.
The young Maestro Robin Ticciati does a respectable job despite some sluggish tempos. The ROH musicians produce, as is always the case, a resplendent sound.