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Kwiecien offers fine Onegin for Lyric return

Lyric Opera of Chicago
03/01/2008 -  and March 5, 8, 11, 14, 17*, 21, 24, 27, 30
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky : Eugene Onegin, Op. 24
Mariusz Kwiecien (Onegin), Dina Kuznetsova (Tatyana), Frank Lopardo (Lensky), Nino Surguladze (Olga), Marie Plette (Mme Larina), Catherine Wyn-Rogers (Filipyevna), Vitalij Kowaljow (Gremin), Keith Jameson (Triquet), Daniel Billings (Captain), Darren Stokes (Zaretsky)
Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra and Chorus, Sir Andrew Davis, (conductor)
Robert Carsen (Director), Paula Suozzi (Revival Director), Michael Levine (Sets and Costumes), Jean Kalman/Christine Binder (Lighting)

Eugene Oneginís re-entry into Lyricís repertory was welcome for a number of reasons, not least being the company return of Mariusz Kwiecien, assuming the title role from Dmitri Hvorostovsky for the second half of the run. The opportunity to see two so different but perfectly valid portrayals in the role this season was most enjoyable Ė where all was aloof narcissism with the Russian baritone, the Polish Kwiecien found his strongest moments in the passion and heartrending pathos of Oneginís self revelation in the later acts. Outstandingly handsome in Michael Levineís period costumes, Kwiecienís beautiful timbre, with its erotically purring vibrato, lent the character a singular appeal, and he utilized the text most intelligently. One might perhaps ideally desire a chillier demeanor in the early scenes Ė there is something inherently warm and boyish about Kwiecienís stage persona Ė but this was a lovely performance, and one clearly bound to be a standard-setter as the young baritone matures in the role.

Dina Kuznetsova sang gloriously as Tatyana, her honeyed lyric soprano glowing and idiomatically responsive to text and music alike. The Letter Scene was beautifully done and earned a huge ovation from an appreciative audience. Frank Lopardo was announced as suffering from a cold, but aside from some careful handling of the upper register in pianissimo, displayed little evidence of indisposition, dispatching Lenskyís vocal line with grace and brio.

Catherine Wyn-Rogers offered a meticulously tailored portrait of Filipyevna, and Marie Plette rendered Madame Larin with a beautifully gleaming soprano the music so well benefits by and so rarely receives. Russian artists Nino Surguladze and Vitalij Kowaljow made effective Lyric debuts as Olga and Gremin respectively.

Carsenís spare production, with its melancholy carpeting of autumn leaves in the early scenes and its sumptuous period costumes, is quite familiar from its various Met outings, and is now available on DVD as well. Carsenís unique ability to capture the affective core of a piece by utilizing very simple, straightforward imagery that goes straight to the heart is well represented here. Some may question his conception of the Polonaise as a scenic transitional medium rather than the opulent pageant the music suggests, but generally the production is entirely respectful of the piece and allows for pointed focus on character relationships. The choreography by Serge Bennathan, recreated for this revival by August Tye, was most enlivening.

Sir Andrew Davis led one of his most enjoyable performances of the season, the poignant handling of the atmospheric Prelude later giving way to an Act Two, scene one ensemble of protean force. The chorus particularly delighted in the harvest interlude of Act One.

Mark Thomas Ketterson



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