Eugene Onegin

LA Opera's Eugene Onegin

La-opera-eugene-onegin-acti * Notes *
The 25th season of Los Angeles Opera opened with Eugene Onegin (
pictured left with the Los Angeles Opera chorus, Ronnita Nicole Miller as Filipievna, Margaret Thompson as Madame Larina, Oksana Dyka as Tatiana, and Ekaterina Semenchuk as Olga; photograph by Robert Millard) last night. The 2006 production originates from Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, directed there by the late Steven Pimlott, and was co-produced by Finnish National Opera. Francesca Gilpin directs these performances with simplicity and directness. At first, Antony McDonald's costumes and sets employ a pleasing color palette of pale greens, bright reds, and crisp whites. This develops into further bold contrasts in other scenes, all quite smart. The only misstep was the use of three paintings projected on the scrim, not only did the back curtain get caught on the scrim twice, the effect was a bit obvious and detracted the drama. Otherwise, the set was especially charming, especially the use of water and the final ball scene as an ice skating party.

Maestro James Conlon kept the music going at a fine clip, and the Los Angeles Opera orchestra sparkled. There was a brass blooper in the overture, but the sounded lovely in the Letter Scene. The singers of the chorus were not always perfectly together but sang gamely.

Much of the singing was pretty and heartfelt. James Creswell was vocally convincing Prince Gremin, though did not appear particularly elderly in his movement. Ekaterina Semenchuk made for a hearty Olga, and in some of the early ensembles along with Ronnita Nicole Miller (Filipievna), Margaret Thompson (Madame Larina) it seemed a bit as if they were in a sing-off, so powerful were all the voices. Tenor Vsevolod Grivnov (Lensky) has a pleasantly creaky voice with brightness that cut through the orchestra. His big aria in Act II went well.

Oksana Dyka sang Tatiana with vitality. Her lack of restraint in the Letter Aria was the perfect foil for her self-posession in Act III. Dyka had some throatiness and slight shrillness in Act I, but nothing inappropriate. Dalibor Jenis (Eugene Onegin) also nuanced his voice from one scene to the next. He was abrasive in the early scenes, but showed sweetness when necessary.

* Tattling * 
Some electronic sounds were noted during the performance, a few mobile phones and hearing aids could be clearly heard. There was talking all around me in Balcony B. For Act I, a woman directly behind me just had to mention how "awesome" the set was, not once but twice. During the second half, the woman in Row L Seat 38 would not cease her talking during the recitatives. I hushed her, and her husband chuckled, and at least tried to keep her quiet. After the performance, she mistook Maestro Conlon for the director, and insisted that he must not have read the libretto in English translation.


Eugene Onegin at Unter den Linden

Here is the Opernphrenologe's review of the new Eugene Onegin production at the Berliner Staatsoper. I admit I did some heavy editing to get it closer to the style of the Opera Tattler, but there was only so much I could do. We'll get to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

   * Notes *
After seeing this opera, it can only be concluded that the director Achim Freyer is a gay man with a fetish for mimes. You, dear reader, need not read any further. The rest is only some boring details about the singers and the set and so on. The only important thing to know is that Mr. Freyer loves mimes A Bit Too Much.

On to the boring details for those of you who like pain. Yes, the entire cast was composed of mimes.  These mimes did various things. One mime simulated giving birth three times, and pulled the same baby out of her unmentionables three times. In fact, everything happened three times, except for a yellow man and a red man. The mimes went through the same routine.

Most of the mimes were of average size, but there was one mime that was quite round. That was my favorite. What else did the mimes do? There was the regular mime stuff like spinning chairs and moving around quite slowly. They also did mime yoga (downward dog, triangle, half shoulder stand, and warrior). I also liked the part where all of the mimes bounce up and down quite lewdly when Tatjana (and others) sang about love.

The opera was broken up into two parts, with the cut right after Lenski and Onegin challenge each other to a duel. During the first part, the entire stage is white with black "distance lines" on the ground. When Tatjana was weeping over Onegin's rejection, a bunch of little red balls were released to roll down the stage, but they kept on hitting mimes and getting stuck along the way, so it took around 5 minutes for all of the little balls to disappear. Monsieur Trinquet was yellow, and he had to sing his entire solo while doing a complicated shuffling step. He did his part quite well. There were lighted happy face balls at the dance party. At one point, the entire stage was lit in a rainbow, which I believe means that Mr. Freyer is gay.

During the second part, Lenski is shot and the stage turns black. Before he's shot, some man in red stands behind Onegin, a profound statement about something or another I'm sure. Lenski is lit in red, which I'm sure also means something very deep. Then there is a lovely music interlude which is supposed to be Prince Gremin's ball. During most of this time, Lenski is slowly dying. At least, he stands there lit in red as mimes do things. It took a long time. Finally, he keeled over with a loud plop and that was the end of him thank goodness. The mimes went through the third revolution of their yoga, chairs, whatever. Yawn.

I would have been satisfied with this if the singing had been better. Tatjana (Anna Samuil) had too much vibrato. Olga (Maria Gortsevskaya) was quite good, except she was somewhat hesitant on higher notes. Lenski (Rolando Villazón) was nice, except that he was quite nasal (which I wouldn't have noticed if I didn't speak any Russian). He was good for a few chuckles, since I repeated the "I love you" in Russian for the rest of the evening, except through my nose. It sounded just like him! Onegin (Roman Trekel) had absolutely awful pronunciation of Russian and he wasn't very noteworthy one way or the other. Monsieur Trinquet (Stephan Ruegamer) did an excellent job, in fact I think I found his solo the most beautiful out of the entire thing.

* Tattling * 
My my, what laughs I had! When the red balls appeared, a man in front of me said very loudly, "Schweine Sinn." Normally I don't like it when people talk, but it was so funny! Unfortunately, the German couple next to me kept on talking until I shushed them. The male half of the couple also kept on squirming, and he made me uncomfortable. Fortunately, he switched places with his (very talkative) female half during the second part.

And there was so much booing! It made me so happy! The Schweinesinn Mann booed quite loudly at the start of the second half, and the conductor responded to the booers by saying something which I didn't understand. Unfortunately, my lovely Schweinesinn Mann left with his Frau five minutes after the start of the second part.


La Scala's 2008-2009 Season

December 4 2008- January 15 2009: Don Carlo
January 16- February 3 2009: The Makropoulos Case
February 5-25 2009: Tristan und Isolde
March 10-27 2009: Alcina
March 24- April 4 2009: I Due Foscari
April 7- May 10 2009: Il Viaggio a Reims
April 24- May 17 2009: The Rake's Progress
May 22- June 12 2009: Assassino nella Cattedrale
June 6-17 2009: A Midsummer Night's Dream
June 20- July 8 2009: Aida
July 13-17 2009: Eugene Onegin (Bolshoi)
September 19- October 6 2009: Orfeo
October 15-30 2009: Idomeneo

La Scala announced their 2008-2009 season today. Dolora Zajick is singing Eboli in Don Carlo. Waltraud Meier sings Isolde, with Daniel Barenboim conducting. Barenboim also conducts Aida next season. Salvatore Licitra shares the role of Radames (Aida) with Walter Fraccaro.The production of The Rake's Progress is the same Lepage one inspired by Giant we had in San Francisco this season. David Daniels sings opposite of Rosemary Joshua in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Press Release (In Italian) | Calendar


Paris Opera's 2008-2009 Season

September 6-11 2008: Eugene Onegin
September 24- November 2 2008: Rigoletto
October 11- November 2 2008: The Bartered Bride
October 13- November 12 2008: Cunning Little Vixen
October 30- December 3 2008: Tristan und Isolde
November 17- December 23 2008: Die Zauberflöte
November 25- December 21 2008: Fidelio
January 17-30 2009: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
January 24- February 8 2009: Yvonne, princesse de Bourgogne
January 29- March 4 2009: Madama Butterfly
February 27- March 22 2009: Idomeneo
February 28- March 26 2009: Werther
April 4- May 8 2009: Macbeth
April 10- May 23 2009: Un ballo in maschera
May 4-18 2009: The Makropulos Affair
May 20- June 5 2009: Tosca
June 13-21 2009: Demofoonte
June 18- July 2009: King Roger

Riccardo Muti conducts Demofoonte. Waltraud Meier sings Isolde opposite of Clifton Forbis. Paul Groves sings the title role of Idomeneo, with Joyce DiDonato as Idamante and Camilla Tilling as Ilia. Rolando Villazon shares the role of Werther with Marcus Haddock. Deborah Voigt shares the role of Amelia with Angela Brown and Ulrica Elena Manistina.

2008-2009 Schedule | Official Site


The Met's 2008-2009 Season

September 22 2008: Gala
September 23- October 16 2008: Salome
September 24- October 9 2008: La Gioconda
September 27-December 19 2008: Don Giovanni
October 3-25 2008: Lucia di Lammermoor
October 13- November 13 2008: Doctor Atomic
October 20- November 20 2008: La Traviata
October 24- November 22 2008: Madama Butterfly
November 7- December 4 2008: La Damnation de Faust
November 21- December 13 2008: The Queen of Spades
November 28- December 20 2008: Tristan und Isolde
December 8 2008- January 8 2009: Thaïs
December 15 2008- January 10 2009: La Bohème
December 22 2008- January 1 2009: Die Zauberflöte
December 31 2008- February 26 2009: La Rondine
January 9-31 2009: Orfeo ed Euridice
January 24- February 12 2009: Rigoletto
January 26- February 7 2009: Lucia di Lammermoor
January 30- February 21 2009: Eugene Onegin
February 6-28 2009: Adriana Lecouvreur
February 16- May 8 2009: Il Trovatore
February 27- March 7 2009: Madama Butterfly
March 2- April 3 2009: La Sonnambula
March 9-21 2009: Rusalka
March 19- April 10 2009: Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci
March 25- May 4 2009: Das Rheingold
March 31- April 22 2009: L'Elisir d'Amore
April 1-17 2009: Rigoletto
April 6- May 5 2009: Die Walküre
April 13-24 2009: Don Giovanni
April 18- May 7 2009: Siegfried
April 25- May 9 2009: Götterdämmerung
May 1-9 2009: La Cenerentola

The Met's 125th season includes 6 new productions and 22 revivals. Susan Graham is singing Marguerite and Don Elvira. Karita Mattila sings Tatiana and Salomé. Juha Uusitalo has his Met debut as Jokanaan in Salomé. Deborah Voigt stars in the title role of La Gioconda with Ewa Podleś as La Cieca, and Olga Borodina as Laura Badoero. Thomas Hampson is Athanaël in Thaïs, opposite of Renée Fleming, and Onegin, opposite of Mattila as aforementioned. Fleming also sings the title role in Rusalka. Anna Netrebko will sing Mimi and share the role of Lucia with Diana Damrau. Netrebko's Edgardo is, of course, Rolando Villazón. Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna (Giuseppe Filianoti in February performances) sing in La Rondine, the production is the same one that was seen in San Francisco last Fall and which will be broadcast this weekend. Gheorghiu stars in L'Elisir opposite of Rolando Villazón. Alagna also appears in Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci. John Relyea is in two productions, La Damnation de Faust and La Cenerentola. René Pape sings Hunding and Fasolt in the Ring and King Marke in Tristan und Isolde. Daniel Barenboim is making his Met debut conducting Tristan.

McVicar's Il Trovatore is a co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera. The Met performances feature Salvatore Licitra, along with Sondra Radvanovsky, Dolora Zajick, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky for the first performances, and then Marco Berti, Hasmik Papian, Luciana D'Intino, and Željko Lučić.

I am most likely to see Orfeo ed Euridice, the Mark Morris production was my very first opera when it was performed in Berkeley several years ago. I am disappointed to not see Ruth Ann Swenson or Andreas Scholl in this lineup for the next season.

Press Release | Official Site


Eugene Onegin at the Met

Onegin* Notes *
Last Saturday's matinee of Eugene Onegin at the Metropolitan Opera was sold out, but was broadcast in movie theatres in seven countries. The production was done by Robert Carsen, with sets and costumes by Michael Levine. The sets were rather minimal, the first half has a bunch of autumnal leaves on the ground and these are swept around to suggest rooms. The scene changes were swift, expect in the case of the two last scenes in Act III. This one took more time than the others, perhaps because the chairs that had been brought on stage in the transition between Acts II and III had to be cleared. It was a contrast from the switch between acts that was done without the curtain falling. Valery Gergiev conducted well, it was interesting how slowly he took Monsieur Triquet's aria. The chorus did seem somewhat unwieldy, but the orchestra never did.

Renée Fleming sang Tatiana well enough, but didn't seem engaged with the character. She also nearly tripped in the second scene, but not while she was running around throwing leaves around. Elena Zarembra (Olga) had a bit too much vibrato, even for Tchaikovsky. Dmitri Hvorostovsky was fine in the title role, he was both dashing and sullen. His voice is nice, but not as spectacular as Ramón Vargas'. Vargas had beautiful tone and he acted well. On the whole, the acting and singing was at a high level.

* Tattling *
The standing room line was about 100 people deep by 9:00 am. We arrived at 6:40 am and were fifth and sixth. Josephine was there with a bright blue furry headband on and her green coat.

The audience wasn't great, there was some chatter and the girl next to me kept laughing at poor Eugene.


Eugene Onegin

The Netherlands Opera production of Eugene Onegin ended its run at San Francisco Opera today. Director Johannes Schaaf finally brought us something that is stripped down but works, unlike the ugly minimalism of Kát'a Kabanová, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, or Il Barbiere di Siviglia. The lines are clean, but one doesn't feel as if one is stuck in an IKEA furnished flat in Berlin. The birch grove in the first scene is pretty, but not ornate. Undoubtedly, the designer who worked on this, Peter Pabst, had a part in making the set so. The highlight of the staging for the audience was in Act III. An enormous chandelier was lit from below, causing a chain reaction all the way around and up. Bambi Uden did a good job with the choreography, especially in Scene 4, during Tatyana's birthday party, when the chorus linked arms and danced.

In the title role for the first seven performances, baritone Russell Braun was a bit on the quiet side, this was noticeable as it is usually the tenor with this problem. Lucas Meachem also seemed to do well as Onegin, but I was in the orchestra, and the sound is somewhat distorted there. In contrast, tenor Piotr Beczala was absolutely wonderful, his tone sweet and volume powerful. Soprano Elena Prokina was also excellent as Tatyana, very convincing. Mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy was charming as Olga, her voice was lovely in the opening with Prokina, and her acting was fiery in Scene 4.