Eugene Onegin - Royal Academy of Music, 14 March 2013
And so on to the - fourth? fifth? - Eugene Onegin in London in the last five minutes. This one's distinguishing characteristic was that the principals were roughly the same age as the characters they played. Even though the opera's first-ever performance was given by Moscow Conservatory pupils, it's still an ambitious choice for a student production, but the RAM largely rose to the challenge.
John Ramster's functional period production delivered exactly what the evening required. Short on scenery, long on lavish and predictable costumery, it showcased the singing talent without the distractions of interpretive novelty. This was a well-prepared and intelligently-cast show.
I caught the second night's 'Tchaikowsky' cast, who split the four show run with the 'Pushkin' (no judgemental As and Bs for the egalitarian RAM).
Some of the singers were clearly more 'finished' than others, but there were no weak links. Samuel Furness (Lensky) stood out for his bright, commanding tenor and confident acting. Irina Loskova's minxy Olga proved that when a voice is still developing, dramatic skills can compensate. In general, it was heartening to see performers playing to their strengths rather than battling their weaknesses. A dodgy note is less obvious if it's obscured by dazzling emoting/diction/whatever. I was impressed too with the care and detail shown by every singer on stage, even those at the back of the chorus.
The orchestra proved far more mixed in ability, not to mention intonation. Despite Jane Glover's clear and sensibly-paced conducting, blemishes kept cropping up, reminding me of the main reason I skip most student performances. Most of the musicians played well, but of course in an orchestra it only takes one.