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Thrilling musically, unmoving dramatically

Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
28 May 2012

Eugene Onegin is one of my all-time favourite operas of one of my favourite composers. But as great as it was musically, I found myself unmoved by this production, especially after the 1988(Weikl and Burrows), 1984(Freni and Ghiaurov) and 2007(Hvorostovsky and Fleming) performances were thrilling and beautiful in every regard. There are definitely some things I did like, the orchestra play Tchaikovsky's gorgeous score wonderfully throughout, the chorus are well balanced and Daniel Barenboim gives a typically enigmatic reading as conductor. The singing is wonderful. Peter Mattei is a handsome and silkily-voiced Onegin, I do think the production makes Onegin too unlikeable and unsympathetic but Mattei does what he can. Joseph Kaiser as Lensky is passionate, moving and idealistic with a deeply-felt rendition of his Act 2 aria, Ferruccio Furlanetto is a resonant Gremin and Anna Samuil a beautifully-shaded and strong-willed Tatyana. However I do have problems with this production, starting with I think Andrea Breth tried too hard to make the opera dark when the opera is already, consequently the characters are all bores really(Madame Larina is completely distorted into the complete opposite of what's actually meant to be like) with only Lensky not affected. There are definitely some good ideas, such as the intense final scene, the portrayal of the matriarchal society, the heartbreaking duel and Tatyana's disdain, but as a whole with misfiring touches like the Letter Scene being too loose and not vulnerable enough and the Act 2 Waltz scene static dramatically and poorly danced by one couple it doesn't come together. The production values are uneven, I liked the lighting and a couple of the sets, but the costumes are unattractive and most of the sets are dreary and cold-looking. The chorus are emotionless in their acting, and the opening scenes which in all fairness not easy to pull off are rather dull for my liking. In conclusion, has great singing and is a musically thrilling, but largely due to the director trying too hard, the characters not as lovable as they ought and staging that had good intentions but didn't ignite the production largely unmoved me. 6/10 Bethany Cox

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