As is often the case with Covent Garden’s less-rounded productions, however, the cast and crew elevate affairs significantly. Dmitri Hyorotovsky, currently undergoing surgery for a brain tumour, makes a mellifluous Onegin that would be equally remarakable in happier times. Nicole Car is staggering as Tatyana, possessed of all the character’s force and intelligence. And Michael Fabiano, making his Royal Opera debut as Lensky, is astounding, with a startlingly bold and direct rendition of his aria. The supporting players are on fine form, and Semyon Bychkov conducts the orchestra with sophistication. Don't go to Eugene Onegin expecting the clearest rendition of Tchaikovsky's beauteous passion-piece, but do expect first-class performances.
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Even though it is based on a work of the highest literary merit, Eugene Onegin is a remarkable for its simple beauty. Tchaikovsky took Puskhin’s novel-in-verse – the foundational work of modern Russian literature – and honed his gaze on its emotive power. The result is one of the most beautiful operas of the nineteenth century, with uncomplicated melodies and believable passions.
Eugene Onegin is a tale of thwarted romance. The urbane dandy Onegin inherits an estate and relocates to the countryside, where he meets the poet Lensky, his fiancé Olga and her sister Tatyana. What follows is a neatly paralleled drama. When Tatyana writes an impassioned letter to Onegin, he coldly repel her; when he finally comes to realize his true feelings, it proves to late, and he is the one who finds himself rejected. Between these two episodes there is a tragic turn as Onegin’s dishonorable behavior results in a fatal duel.
When first produced in 2013, Kasper Holten’s production proved controversial. Although few could argue with the quality of the cast, some reviewers were bemused with what they saw as a radical transformation of the opera. Onegin and Tatyana were recast as their older selves, looking back at their younger entanglements. They were one level removed from the action. For others, however, this device proved an effective twist on a familiar plot, adding a powerful sense of loss from the outset and allowing for fascinating directional touches.
For this revival, Royal Opera regular Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Un ballo in maschera) plays Onegin, while rising star Nicole Car follows up her debut appearance in Carmen as Tatyana. Semyon Bychkov, a conductor versed in Russian music, replaces the less well-matched Robin Ticciati in the podium. This might not be the definite Onegin, but it certainly one of the most interesting.
|What||Eugene Onegin, Royal Opera House|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
19 Dec 15 – 07 Jan 16, 7:30 PM – 10:20 PM
|Website||Click here to book via the Royal Opera House|