It has been a long time since I had some spare time to enjoy an opera, but I planned last night for a while now so I would not miss it. One of my very favorite composers is Tchaikovsky, however, I enjoy opera more than anything else, so when I know one of his operas is coming up on the program I cannot skip it.
Eugen Onegin is an opera, which tells Pushkin‘s story in a more reverse way. As a contrast to the famous novel, in the opera, the audience is able to see Tatjana’s perspective instead of Onegin’s. If you haven’t read the novel I’ll just tell you in a few sentences what is it about.
(Anna Netrebko as Tatjana)
(This is a very condensed representation of the plot and I am skipping a lot of the details)
Tatjana and her sister – Olga are country girls, who live with their mother and their servant. Olga is in love with Lenski and he loves her back, however, this is not the case for Tatjana, who is in love with Eugen, neighbor and friend of Lenski. After tormenting herself for a while, Tatjana decides to tell Onegin about her feelings, but he pushes her away, by giving her a moral lecture and telling her he has only brother-like feelings for her. Later on, all of them go to a ball, where Olga dances the whole night with Onegin. Lenski is outraged by her behavior and out of jealousy suggests duel between him and Onegin (and as you can imagine – Lenski gets killed). The story then skips several years where Eugen was traveling on a ship and Tatjana married Prince Gremin, a rich and respected man by the court. They organize a ball, where Onegin is invited. From the moment he sees Tatjana he falls in love with her – he has never seen her so graceful and poised. He decides to tell her his feelings and she admits that she still has feelings for him. Still, she would never be his, she is married and she will stay true to her husband.
As far as staging and performance go, I cannot be happier with the work of the Vienna State Opera. I have seen the opera already four times, one of which with Anna Netrebko last year and it is always stunning. This year the cast includes Olga Bezsmertna (Olga), Christopher Maltman (Eugen Onegin), Pavol Breslik (Lenski) and Mika Kares debut(Prince Gremin). I was very pleased with the performances and I enjoyed, even more, the playing of the Wiener Philharmoniker, who always manage to touch my soul with their music. The pieces in the end of the second act and the whole third act can get underneath your skin and leave you trembling. Plus the plot is dramatic enough to make you emotional.
The staging is also done in a very interesting manner, it is somewhere on the verge between modernity but still does not bail on tradition. It is very simplistic, yet, the scenes with the ballrooms are quite impressive. Those are also livelier in comparison to the other parts of the opera.
The music is flowing and the performance of all of the singers last night was outstanding. A personal favorite of mine is the polonaise in the third act so keep your ears open for that. Also, the Lenski’s aria “Kak shchastliv , kak shchastliv!” tells you about the heart tremble of this young man, which in Russian especially is very moving.
To wrap it all up, I cannot recommend this opera more and I feel that you will not be disappointed if you give it a try. It doesn’t matter if you have never seen an opera or you are a long-time fan like me, I think this one is ideal for everyone’s taste.
(c) Wiener Staatsoper / Michael Pöhn