Eugene Onegin at the Royal Opera House: Russian identity lacking

Eugene Onegin at the Royal Opera House on the 30th of December 2015 had an impressive cast with distinctive voices and nearly perfect Russian pronunciation, as well as great orchestra performance. Unfortunately Kaspen Holten’s concept doesn’t have a national identity. It failed to evoke the genuine images of Russian life, society, relations for me as a Russian!

Why so dramatic Eugene Onegin at the Royal Opera House?

ROH 30.12.2015 - 3Tchaikovsky’s lyric opera has become an overstrained story, hectic and static at the same time. The use of doubles as Onegin and Tatyana are looking back on their missed life opportunity might be seen as an interesting one but it does fit neither the music nor the libretto. It just complicates the plot and contradicts Tchaikovsky’s desire to simplicity.

For Russians Eugene Onegin is part of heritage and culture. It is unlikely to meet anyone who never learned Pushkin’s verse novel or do not know Tatiana’s and Onegin’s love letters. In my view the characters and their relations in the production were quite different from those we know from our childhood.

Russian identity lacking in Kaspen Holten’s concept.

Tatyana has lost the image of a contemplative girl. Onegin was shown as a drunken person in the final scenes. Romantic Lensky was left on stage after the duelling till closing curtain. The Gremin’s appearance at the protagonists’ dialog has transformed Tatiana-Onegin relations into a sarcastic melodrama.

The space in the stage is hardly used as well as the scenic design is extremely dull. Sadly the costumes are blank, without any glimpse to Russian bright garments or famous folklore. Where is an idyllic country festivity or luxurious St.Petersburg? Unfortunately all splendid and lavish parts have disappeared; the two balls are filled with a mass of people hardly representing the local society or aristocracy.

Tatyana’s dressing in red and crowds in black again represents exaggerated Holten’s interpretation of Pushkin and Tchaikovsky. It might give a reference to some sort of conflict or class tensions. The peasants that were serfs in 19th century Russia were humiliating Tatiana: sorry, but they should be picking up the berries in the Tatyana’s garden as they have to sing to avoid eating harvest.

The Royal Opera cast.

Despite the criticism Eugene Onegin at the Royal Opera House had a solid performance thanks to cast: Nicole Car – Tatyana, Dmitri Hvorostovsky – Onegin, Michael Fabiano – Lensky,  Oksana Volkova – Olga, Diana Montague – Mother, Catheryne Wyn-Rogers – Filipovna, Ferruccio Furlanetto – Gremin. Also it was masterfully conducted by Semen Bychkov.

I hope the Royal Opera House will make available to the British audience some outstanding productions of Russian repertoire, like War and Peace by Andrei Konchalovsky or recent Eugene Onegin version at Mariinsky (Kirov) theatre by Gergiev and Stepanuk.

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Eugene Onegin 2015

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