With overdressed guests still drifting in some 20 minutes after the scheduled start time, the Met's opening night gala was already running late. Just as the lights dimmed and it seemed as if the Eugene Onegin premiere might finally get under way, a voice rang out from behind me.
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.
Intermezzo's Russian spy reports back from last night's Eugene Onegin that every single performer managed well with the language, often a stumbling block for non-native speakers.
Elena Maximova (Olga), the only Russian in the Royal Opera House cast, received the only perfect score. All the others revealed accents of various origins, though, to the surprise of my spy, there were no mistakes whatsoever, and every word came across clearly. A frequent operagoer, she said she was "amazed" they'd done so well, particularly when she learned that Simon Keenlyside doesn't speak the language at all.
The well-deserved applause video above is from Saturday night's show - thanks to Kyoko.
Proof that opera companies never talk to each other. With recent stagings by English Touring Opera (conventional but revelatory) and ENO (best forgotten) cutting into each other's audiences, Eugene Onegin is the opera of the year. Now Opera Holland Park enter the fray.
Eugene Onegin - English Touring Opera - Hackney Empire, 9 March 2012
You don't need a load of fancy scenery to tell a story, as English Touring Opera's minimal but effective staging proves. First seen in 2007, James Conway's production employs little more than a large panel in the middle. Lit by turns as window, mirror and screen, it conjures up orchard and ballroom with surprising ease. Lavish period costumes provide eye candy for the sweet-toothed.
Where Deborah Warner's recent ENO Onegin started to go wrong was in creating vast, empty spaces in which to play out the opera's intimate drama. Here, everything is restored to its proper, human scale. Singing it in English only enhances that.