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.
Eugene Onegin - English National Opera, 23 November 2011
What a dull evening Deborah Warner has managed to make from this opera of almost infinite interpretive possibilities.
Unwilling to risk any sort of perspective, she's fallen back on a lavishly decorated blend of BBC bonnet drama and dinosaur-age Met fare (no surprise that's where it's ultimately headed). None of the parts are drawn strongly enough to call it character-driven either. A brand new production, it already has the look of an under-rehearsed revival. Edward Gardner's exquisitely calibrated but dispassionate conducting just reinforced the sense of intellectual and emotional detachment.
Eugene Onegin - De Nederlandse Opera, Het Muziektheater Amsterdam, 18 June 2011
By telling the story largely in interactive flashback, Stefan Herheim's new production ingeniously restores elements of Pushkin's verse novel absent from Tchaikovsky's adaptation. Flitting between Pushkin's time and today, Onegin and Tatiana take turns to contemplate their past. At the same time, modern Russia's identity crisis is explored via a procession of national stereotypes from peasant to patriarchs, communists to cosmonauts. This feels over-ambitious, though to be fair it is truthful to the novel, which is drawn on a larger scale than the opera. The production as a whole though is still an extraordinary theatrical experience, enhanced by the brilliant playing of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
Eugene Onegin opened last night at De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam, in a new production by Stefan Herheim.
The Dutch have really pulled out all the stops for this. The orchestra is the Royal Concertgebouw, and it's conducted by Mariss Jansons. The cast includes Bo Skovhus as Onegin, Krassimira Stoyanova as Tatiana, Elena Maximova as Olga, Andrej Dunaev as Lensky and Mikhail Petrenko as Gremin.
More later - meanwhile here are some production photos (Forster/De Nederlandse Opera).