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An enchantment

The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
09/30/2018 -  & October 4, 10*, 18, 20, 26, 30, November 3, 2018
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin, Op. 24
Gordon Bintner (Eugene Onegin), Joyce El-Khoury (Tatyana). Joseph Kaiser (Lensky), Oleg Tsibulko (Prince Gremin), Varduhi Abrahamyan (Olga), Helen Schneiderman (Madame Larina), Margaret Lattimore (Filipyevna), Samuel Chan (A Captain, Christopher Mortagne (Monsieur Triquet), Joel Allison (Zaretsky)
The Canadian Opera Company Chorus, Sandra Horst (chorus master), The Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, Johannes Debus (conductor)
Robert Carsen (original director), Peter McClintock (associate director), Michael Levine (set and costume designer), Victoria Wallace (assistant set and costume designer), Jean Kalman (original lighting designer), Christine Binder (revival lighting designer), Serge Bannathan (choreographer)

G. Bintner, J. El-Khoury (© Michael Cooper)

In 2010, the COC presented Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice in Robert Carsen and Michael Levine’s eloquent semi-abstract production. Their distinguished production of Eugene Onegin, first presented at the Metropolitan Opera in 1997, works similar magic.

Instead of scenery the stage rear and side walls are flooded with coloured light which heightens the atmosphere of each scene, such as the autumnal orange in the opening scene. Most effective is the duel scene in which the characters are simply black silhouettes against an icy blue background, a brilliant demonstration of minimal design assuring heightened intensity.

Of course strong casting helps, with the central characters looking the right (youthful) age – we must remember that the world-weary Onegin of Act III is still just 26.

The role of Tatyana is a gift for the right soprano and Joyce El-Khoury ably expresses the fluctuating emotions of Tatyana, from the lively but thoughtful country girl to the anguished noblewoman.

It is hard to believe that it was just six years ago that Gordon Bintner entered the COC’s Ensemble Studio; he has progressed from an emerging talent to a fully-emerged one. His voice is just right for the title role, and his demeanour when dealing with Tatyana, Olga, and Lensky is always on target.

Joseph Kaiser has performed for both the COC and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and his performance as Lensky is the best thing he has done here. Right from his entrance in Act I to his showpiece aria just before the fatal duel he captures the essence of the character while commanding the stage.

Oleg Tsibulko is rather youthful for the role of Prince Gremin (described as “a retired general”). It is a bass’s lot to portray old men from a young age; with a bit of grey in his hair he is convincing enough. He certainly sings it nicely.

Varduhi Abrahamyan is a memorable Olga (one regrets the character’s early disappearance from the action, but that is what the drama requires).

Smaller roles are extremely well performed as well: Helene Schneiderman’s Madame Larina, Margaret Lattimore’s Filipyevna, and Joel Allison’s Zarestsky.

One could wish for a bit more bite in some of the orchestral and chorus work in the first act, but overall the conducting brings forth a proper degree of warmth and anguish. Overall, an experience to treasure.

Michael Johnson



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