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Royal Opera's current production of Eugene Onegin


alison
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Well, the ROH has been sending me postcards trying to get me to buy a ticket for the new-ish production of Eugene Onegin. It may be my favourite opera, but as I said last time around I don't think I can face sitting through it again, not even with Dimitri Hvorostovsky (didn't he say some years ago he wasn't going to sing Onegin any more?).  I gather they have made a few changes since the premiere, but I doubt they'll be enough.  So unless I grab a "listening seat" so I don't have to look at the stage this time ... sorry.  I don't suppose it's being broadcast on Radio 3 at any stage?

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Sometimes I think I am the only person who found Kasper Holten's production a revelation, the first staging I have ever seen (and I have been going to productions of this work around Europe for nearly 50 years) which deals with at least two major, and very different, dramatic questions:-

 

i) From the very opening notes the score is nostalgic, even sad - yet the drama starts upbeat, youthful and optimistic

 

ii) To sing this work in a major house (not as the composer intended but as we tend to get it) one has to have singers of a certain stature and seniority - yet the characters start very young, teenagers even.

 

My wife votes with the majority view and won't be going back. I however can't wait to see and hear this beautiful show at least another couple of times. I used to love the Gyldebourne production: when they revived it recently I went full of excitement - but kept wishing I was watching something as intelligent and sensitive to the music as Holten's production. A minority view I know, but I post it here in the hope of getting people to give this show a chance, or even a second chance!

Edited by Geoff
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  • 2 weeks later...

I am with your wife on the production, Geoff, although I will be going back to give this one a second chance, and thank goodness Hvorostovsky is still scheduled for the night I have booked.

 

I have to say, though, that I found the substitution of dancers for the characters' younger selves extremely distancing. As a result, I felt totally disconnected from the emotions of the characters and felt, as a result, that the piece failed almost entirely.

 

I am not convinced that this can be remedied by anything other than a total re-think but we shall see!

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I am with your wife on the production, Geoff, although I will be going back to give this one a second chance, and thank goodness Hvorostovsky is still scheduled for the night I have booked.

 

Why, has he pulled out of some of them?

 

Geoff, I meant to say that your eloquent defence almost persuaded me to buy a ticket.  I haven't yet :)

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Who is replacing him?

Artur Ruciński Is singing the last two shows, otherwise as per. There was a wonderful moment of solidarity for Hvorostovsky earlier in the year when he first walked on stage during the Trovatore from the Met (we were watching the HD live transmission) and stopped the show:-

 

(From one of the reviews) At the singer’s first entrance in the opera, proud and handsome in a Napoleonic uniform, the crowd burst into a volley of applause and bravos so loud and long that the baritone’s in-character scowl gradually melted into a beaming smile. Hand over heart, he stepped forward to take a bow before continuing the opera.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Loved the production, massive improvement on the dreary one I saw  at ROH about nine years ago.  Wonderful subtle conducting from Bychkov.  Funnily enough it was Fabiano I thought was the weak link.

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I saw this last night and thought it was excellent.  Hvorostovsky sang beautifully and Fabiano's duel scene aria was just stunning.  In fact all of the singing (with the exception of a shockingly flat Gremin - I hope the singer had a head cold as it was otherwise inexplicable) was lovely.

 

I also quite liked the production; it at least attempts to address the issue some critics of the opera have that it fails to capture the narrative irony of Pushkin's work.  I don't necessarily agree with that view, as the orchestration clearly adds nuance to the libretto, but if the production can assist in "layering" the meaning, then I'm all for that.  And I thought it was (mostly) successful in doing so.  Didn't see the 2013 staging though so I don't know whether it was much fussier/less clear last time around.....

 

And the waltz and polonaise are terrible ear worms - still singing them this morning!

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And the waltz and polonaise are terrible ear worms - still singing them this morning!

 

I always find the Polonaise gets mixed up in my mind with the one from the opera... not that I don't remember which one's which, but I can be humming the B section of the opera-Polonaise and somehow follow that by going into the repeat of the A section of the one from the ballet!

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Since you mention that, Ruth, I was listening to [quickly checks Radio Times to see what they called it] The Tsarina's Slippers on the radio this afternoon, and was surprised to see just how much of it was reused as the score for the ballet Onegin.  Huge chunks of it, it felt like ...

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  • 5 weeks later...

A very belated response to this - so busy over the last few weeks - and I enjoyed the production far more than the first run. The doppelgangers were far less intrusive this time round although I could have done without the younger, lightweight, dancing Onegin who seemed totally at odds with the austere, unsympathetic figure that we are asked to accept. Personally, I believe that the 'younger' selves would have been better served by projections but the effect was far less alienating than the first run so overall a great improvement.

 

The singing was superb - Hvorostovsky, I am glad to say, was in fine voice, with great support from Fabiano and Carr - and wonderful conducting from the fabulous Semyon Bychkov.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Just finished listening to this (in the kitchen, no heating, so as not to disturb anybody), and I can only concur with others about the 3 principals, the conducting and the orchestral playing.  It sounded beautifully clear in DAB.  Only problem was the nameless member of the household who decided that the kettle absolutely had to be boiled in the middle of Lensky's aria (GRRRRRR!!), so I shall have to catch up with that on iPlayer while I have the opportunity :(

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Well, whoever thought my laptop had such a good sound system?  With headphones in, it sounds about as good as my DAB radio.  And I can now confirm that Fabiano's voice in the aria sounded wonderful without the kettle boiling in the background - as does Nicole Car's :)

 

Also, am currently being amazed as to quite how much Tchaikovsky's music in Act III sounds like Sleeping Beauty, which is of a much later date.

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