Royal Opera Live – Eugene Onegin

Warning: The following blog post contains a) spoilers, b) descriptions of scenes of unnecessary emotional distress and c) things which have basically no connection whatsoever to the intended topic.

I have so far in my life been to see four operas in the cinema – Un Ballo in Maschera, Aïda, Maria Stuarda and, most recently, Eugene Onegin (I would have seen Rigoletto as well, but the only cinema in town that shows the Met broadcasts had other plans). Of those four, Onegin was definitely the most emotionally draining. So much so, in fact, that when the interval arrived and I realised that I was silently crying, I realised that I would have to risk the disapproving looks of the lady sitting across the aisle from me and go and buy comfort food (Fruit Pastilles) to eat during the second half.

I have never been to see or even properly listened to Onegin before, but judging from the fact that pretty much everyone who has ever seen it seemed to enjoy it, I was expecting something very good indeed. The music of this opera is simply, unbearably beautiful. Right from the start, when Tatyana and Olga are singing their random little song (a classic operatic feature) and Mme Larina and Filipyevna are reminiscing, I was totally drawn into the characters and the music. I felt it a lot closer than with so many other operas I have seen. By the time the interval had come, Lensky and Onegin had argued, the duel was about to happen, Tatyana had been refused and I was crying. The second half was pretty much the same. They fought, Lensky died, Onegin tried to forget, so did Tatyana, they met again, everything went wrong and I was still crying.

Krassimira Stoyanova as Tatyana with Vigdis Hentze Olsen as her former self during the Letter Scene

In terms of this as a performance, it was excellent. Simon Keenlyside (Onegin) and Krassimira Stoyanova (Tatyana) both sang and acted their roles perfectly. The production idea was interesting. The whole opera was seen as a flashback, with both an “old” Tatyana and Onegin, who sang and their younger selves, who were dancers. The other main idea was that the memories would slowly collect up on stage as various items from the different scenes were left lying around. The flashbacks idea was good and for the most part it worked. There were some moments when I couldn’t quite keep up because some scenes did have the younger Onegin and Tatyana in and some didn’t. However, it mostly worked very well, especially in the letter scene. The memories idea was much simpler and it really worked, apart from one –  Lensky came onstage for the duel dragging a huge tree branch behind him, which was then left there for the rest of the opera. Whether the tree was symbolic in some way, I don’t know, but it did look a bit silly when he came on stage, pulling it behind him. I also felt a bit sorry for Pavol Breslik (playing Lensky), as after the duel. he had to lie there and play dead for the rest of the entire opera! I have another production question though: is it normal for, when Tatyana and Onegin are having their final duet/argument thing, is it normal for Prince Gremin to come onstage and stare at them? Whether it is or not, I didn’t really like it because it made it feel as though Tatyana was only saying no to Onegin because Gremin was there, not because of her own strength of mind.

Overall, magnificent, a very interesting production which I really enjoyed, even though parts of it didn’t always quite make sense.

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2 thoughts on “Royal Opera Live – Eugene Onegin

  1. Pingback: Eugene Onegin on the BBC | Il Dolce Suono

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