Eugene Onegin

Music, Classical and opera
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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'Eugene Onegin' will return to the Royal Opera House in 2016, with Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Onegin and Nicole Car as Tatyana. The review below is of its 2013 opening run.

From Tatyana's histrionics during the overture, it's clear that director Kasper Holten is determined to fill all the dramatic space that Tchaikovsky has deliberately left in his romantic tragedy based on Pushkin's novel. It is a straightforward plot – naive girl falls for worldly man, he rejects her, kills his former friend in a duel and regrets it all. Here, however, it is overladen with symbolism. Not least the interpolation of two new characters – the non-speaking younger selves of Tatyana and Onegin. Such a device might have worked had it been consistent, ie, the older singing future ghosts ruefully observing their mute younger selves throughout enacting their mistakes. But, confusingly, Tatyana and her youth (a nimble Vigdis Hentze Olsen) anguish over her initial love and both write the fateful letter to Onegin; while her desired lover's youth (Thom Rackett) doesn't turn up until the duel.

The baritone Simon Keenlyside was on good form as Onegin. A versatile actor and dancer, the presence of a superfluous alter-ego merely gives the false impression that he isn't capable of playing young and old. As Tatyana, Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova makes solid casting, her voice full and acting understated. Other supporting roles were impressive – the Russian contralto Elena Maximova clearly most at home in her mother tongue; and British bass Peter Rose cuts a dignified Prince Gremin.

That this is an opera about regret is laid on with a trowel – once shot, the felled Lensky (subdued Slovakian tenor Pavol Breslik), having dragged a naked branch on stage to symbolise winter, is made to lie dead for the entire second half, rendering the staging as borderline comical.

In the pit, young conductor Robin Ticciati is rather heavy-handed with the normally superb ROH orchestra – the waltzes lacking lightness and grace; the conclusion of Tatyana's 'Letter Aria', ugly and overloud. In keeping with the production's insistent theme, overall, there is much to regret.


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Cheeky Bellini

I attended the performance of Eugene Onegin on 2nd Jan 2016.  While the performance from the cast was stellar the customer service at Royal Opera House was disappointing.  

As an opera beginner, I could understand the story and feel both Onegin and Tanya's transition from their younger selves into mature people who came to realise the other was the one that got away.  Tanya's passion shines through as sings through the end.  While she loved him, she had her own obligations.  The youth who would do anything for Oregon's love has grown into a mature lady who considered the bigger picture in life.

There were lots of transport issues on the day.  This means there was a last minute influx of people arriving at the Royal Opera House.  The staffing were not sufficient to swiftly handle the cloakroom and usher people to their seats.  At interval, service at the Paul Hamlyn Bar was were also slow.  Despite having champagne vouchers, people had to wait to be served.  By the time I got my champagne, the bell had rung with ten minutes to spare till the performance.  This has overall made the experience not relaxing.  This could have been managed better if staff have pre-poured glasses of champagne shortly before interval based estimate on how many vouchers they have sold and the number they would likely sell.  I have been to the Royal Opera Opera on many occasions to attend the ballet.  This was unfortunately by far the most stressful experience.  

I totally enjoyed the performance and recommend that anyone attend.  I would also recommend arriving early.  Although on this occasion I was slightly let down by London transport over the holiday weekend.