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.