LA Opera's Eugene Onegin
September 18, 2011
* 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.