Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin – Metropolitan Opera, 2007 (Part 1: Les Feuilles Mortes et Des Rangées de Chaises)

Hvorostovsky and Fleming do make magic together!
Tchaikovsky wrote lovely melodies. And that’s about it. Even conductor Valery Gavrilov points out in rehearsal that there’s not much development (a complaint I’ve always had about Tchaikovsky) and the orchestra needs to work on inflecting all those little motives, or it will get boring fast. But, they’re lovely melodies: and they come back now and then at appropriate times. All I knew of Eugene Onegin was the Letter Scene and (without realizing it) the Polonaise, and I’m happy to learn more of these tunes.

Who knew that a stage covered with dead leaves could be so evocative? It sets the tone so well. The autumn leaves are…well…autumnal, suggesting a time of reflection. (Of course Onegin’s only 26 by the final scene. He is awfully young to already be so jaded!) Chairs delineate playing space for the two ballroom scenes; the first a smaller space, with mismatched chairs, and the second space larger, and with matching chairs—much more elegant. Other settings consist mostly of one or two pieces of furniture—usually a chair. I wonder if, as a child, Robert Carsen was once frightened by row of chairs.

The autumnal Prelude is evocative of...Autumn.
During the prelude we see Onegin sitting in (surprise!) a chair. The floor is covered with dead leaves, and he is reading a letter. (How did he get it? He gave it back to her when rejecting her, and I didn't see another hand-off. Ohhh! That’s his letter to her. The one she is reading in the final scene.) and we are led into the opening scene—the first two acts of the opera are staged as a flashback. 

Incidentally, there is not a ton of drama in this opera, but the lead characters are engaging. And we get some wonderful, powerful singing. It’s a good thing Vargas sings so well. He is not quite a block, but as his acting is only OK. But he sings beautifully! 

Kuda, Kuda - Lensky regrets challenging Onegin.

Fleming impresses in looking young-ish and innocent, and her voice is awesome as always (Yes, I belong to the cult of Renate Flambé). She is capable of showing such emotion, and we get to see many emotions especially in Act 1. Her Letter Scene is sung beautifully.
The Letter Scene

Unfortunately there is a trio of wobbly Russian mezzos as well. But at least they are Russian. Keith Miller has a tiny role but looks and sounds very impressive.  And of course, there's Dmitri. More about him, and about the opera, tomorrow.

Read Part 2


  1. Carsen has a thing about sweeping up leaves as well as rows of chairs. See his "Les Boreades".

    1. True. But he does it so beautifully. That flower-picking scene is one of my favourite moments of that production. Also the umbrellas. I love the umbrellas.

    2. I haven't seen a Carsen production I didn't like! Next up Dialogues des Carmelites at COC in the Spring


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