Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin
Paleau De Les Arts Valencia, 2011
Kristine Opolais (Tatyana), Lena Belkina (Olga), Artur Rucinski (Onegin), Dmitri Korchak (Lensky), Gunther Groissbock (Gremin)
Orquestra De La Comunitat Valenciana & Cor De La Generalitat Valenciana, Omer Meir Wellber
Pushkin's verse novel Eugene Onegin offered few opportunities for dramatic action,spectacle and climaxes. Tchaikovsky was well aware of this. He set out to write an intimate stage work which drew its interest from moods,from beautiful lyrical sequences rather than from theatrical effect. Indeed,he described Onegin not as an opera but as "lyric scenes". He further explained "It is true that the work is deficent in theatrical opportunities;but the wealth of poetry,the humanity,and the simplicity of the story...will compensate for what is lacking in other respects". This is an opera about human isolation,about characters who fail to grasp the happiness that lies within their reach.It is an opera that requires youthful casts,away from the elaborate stage spectacle that Tchaikovsky feared would clutter his lyrical vision. "It is not a opera that wears its attractions on the surface.It took many years,and many revivals,for the public to recognise its subtle beauties." (753:1978).Abbate and Parker in their History of opera-the last 400 years( worth buying) state"Onegin is essentially a chamber opera and tends to creak under the pressure of lavish production values or the starry,larger-then-life singers." Premiere: Moscow 1879,a student production. Bolshoi theatre 1881. Libretto by the composer based on Pushkins novel.
The plot is about an impressionable young girl Tatyana who meets an older man Eugene Onegin,and instantly falls helplessly in love;she writes him a passionate letter,but he rejects her(for all the most rational reasons). Years later, after a stupid quarrel has led to his killing his best friend Lensky in a duel,Tatyana and Onegin meet again; he now falls helplessly in love with her and writes her a letter,but this time,older and wiser,she rejects him-though the irony is that she loves him too.Like her mother she has settled for a secure marriage in lieu of love.
The staging by Mariusz Trelinski is remarkably restrained and minimalist.Basicially,traditional.Lighting plays a great part. Green back ground behind the trees,with yellow flowers. The costumes are equally sophisicated,and have a French taste.That is the pastels are tonally correct and in keeping with the scenery. There is a walk away in front of the stage,where the old Onegin dressed in white walks,and amongest the action,but never over done. He is reviewing his past like a ghost. The Costumes are mainly traditional and beautiful. Words cannot do justice to the subtlity of the costumes.
The singers are all young as Tchaikovsky wanted,apart from the two older ladies, the husband of Tatyana and the older Onegin. Luckily,the booklet states,in the young Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais we have a near-ideal Tatyana,a genuine singing actress,with magnetic looks and presence to match her vibrant voice,and a lithe,almost balletic physicality. Her fellow principals,too,are uniformly excellent,and convincingly youthful,from the Ukrainian mezzo Lena Belkina's flirtatious Olga and Russian Tenor Dmitry Korchak's plangent Lensky to Polish Baritone Artur Rucinski's gloriously sung and charismatic Onegin. They all look the part. You can understand why Tatyana falls for Onegin,and Lensky for her. It is their sheer youth. When Onegin sings,"I am only 26",you agree.They are passionate in their singing and believeable. They are not singers in their 40's.I had always found Eugene Onegin a hard opera to get into,but with this performance,after repeated listening,I got it. Everything clicked.The scenery,the acting,singing and young conductor made it possible.Probably,Tchaikovsky would have approved of this performance,fitting all his requirements,even the older Onegin seeing his past.
The orchestra de la comunitat Valenciana is conducted by Omer Meir Wellber,with the subtlity,passion and gentleness that this frail score requires. He is Valencias new young Music Director,a protege of Barenboim. As the Sunday Times wrote," he is clearly a born conductor.. a name to watch".Recorded at the Palau de les arts"Reina Sofia" Valencia, 8-11 February 2011.A production of Teatr Wielki, Polish National opera,Warsaw.