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2013-02, ROH, Eugene Onegin

Eugene Onegin

Composer: Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Librettist: Modest Tchaikovsky after Pushkin’s story
Venue and Dates: Royal Opera House, London
4,6,9,11,14,16 and 20 February 2013
Conductor:
Robin Ticciati
Director: Kasper Holten
Choreographer:
Set designer: Mia Stensgaard
Lighting:
Performers:
Tatyana: Krassimira Stoyanova
Olga: Elena Maximova
Eugene Onegin: Simon Keenlyside
Lensky:
Pavol Breslik
Prince Gremin: Peter Rose
Larina: Diana Montague
Filipjewna: Kathleen Wilkinson
Monsieur Triquet: Christophe Mortagne
The Captain:
Zaretzki:

Note: The last performance (20.2.) is part of the Royal Opera House Live Cinema Season.

 Screenshots from Rehearsal 7.1.2013 and production pics

 Sound bites

ROH has its own “your reaction page” about the production

ROH’s site with comments about the cinema broadcaast

Mark Pullinger, Opera Britannia, 5.2.2013

” … Simon Keenlyside’s Onegin is no diffident Mr Darcy figure, cold and sneering, but an affable gent, quick to share a joke with Tatyana at the seriousness of Lensky’s poem in praise of Olga. His rejection of Tatyana’s letter is almost apologetic and he nearly seals it with a kiss, but withdraws just in time. Here is an Onegin who is closer in spirit to Olga than her older sister, which makes his flirting with her at Tatyana’s name-day party seem perfectly natural. Indeed, even as the duel approaches, Onegin isn’t really taking the whole thing too seriously.  … . Lensky duels with dancer Onegin, which permits a particularly lovely touch where Keenlyside’s Onegin almost intimately whispers back Lensky’s lines in their duet in canon. In fine vocal form, Keenlyside sang a neat account of his aria rejecting Tatyana’s letter, smooth legato much in evidence, while his descent into the dishevelled, despairing Onegin was reflected in his passionate Act III arioso. Once or twice, he appeared constricted in his upper register, less free than usual. …”

Capriccio Blog, 5.2.2013

” … Simon Keenlyside is also very good vocally, and of course technically he’s a master, though he also seems somehow not in his element – I didn’t feel that he was that engaged with his character, and it showed not just in the physical acting, but also in his vocal acting, which was rather unspecific and bland: not usually words you can apply to Keenlyside. …”

Intermezzo  Blog, 5.2.2013 (with photos!!)

” … In a bore-baiting silent prologue, the mature Tatyana is seen scrunching up and throwing away the letter that once meant so much to her. Then at the key moments in their lives, fifty-somethings Simon Keenlyside and Krassimira Stoyanova become wistful spectators of the young Onegin and Tatyana’s dancer-doubles, echoing the melancholy undertow of the music.  … But, realistically speaking, however vocally ideal Keenlyside and Stoyanova are, they just don’t cut it as love’s young dream. Especially and imminently in HD. Holten’s concept allows us to enjoy their singing without straining our credulity too far. Best of all there’s a detail and psychological truth in the acting, in particular the rounded and reflective Onegin of Simon Keenlyside.
The singing was excellent all round, and idiomatic. (I will return to this  in more detail when I go back for second helpings next week). …”

Edward Seckerson, 5.2.2013

” … Simon Keenlyside’s ability to convey an air of pent-up, buttoned-up, reserve, even awkwardness, making his baring of the soul in the final scenes especially telling. Vocally he and Stoyanova were impressive and, as I have already implied, Pavol Breslik found tender nuance and an authentically Slavic sound for Lensky. …”

 Mark Valencia, Classical Music, 5.2.2013

” … Lensky’s death is rather better managed, with an older-and-wiser Onegin (Simon Keenlyside, rich in dramatic insights but a long way from his vocal best on this opening night) reaching out to embrace his old friend and tortured by the memory of the pointless duel they fought together. … The deployment of dance and mime as windows on the past is effected without much consistency. One moment Keenlyside himself plays the youth, the next his younger self (Thom Rackett) takes over; likewise with Stoyanova and Vigdis Hentze Olsen.  …

Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 6.2.2013

” … But it is Holten’s Eugene Onegin, not Pushkin’s or Tchaikovsky’s.  … Krassimira Stoyanova and Simon Keenlyside sang with style, grandeur, ardour and every desirable quality except the freshness of youth.”

Michael Church, The Independent, 6.2.2013

” … When the curtain rises on Mia Stensgaard’s country-mansion set, Onegin (Simon Keenlyside) and Tatyana (Krassimira Stoyanova) warily circle each other, she holding a letter which she crumples in a fit of despair: Holten’s ‘Onegin’ will be a drama framed by memory. … If Keenlyside finally seems a bit underpowered, there are some nice cameos, notably Diana Montague’s Madame Larina and Christophe Mortagne’s Triquet, and in the quarrel scene Pavol Breslik’s Lensky emerges heartrendingly. But it’s debatable whether this interesting directorial take plays fair with the opera.”

Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 5.2.2013

” … It’s the double who writes Tatyana’s letter, watched by Krassimira Stoyanova’s Tatyana, and it’s a more youthful incarnation of Onegin who kills Lensky in the duel, while Simon Keenlyside‘s twitchy, conflicted character watches on, wringing his hands in anguish. The result is muddled and distracting; having effectively destroyed the letter scene, which Stoyanova sings well, Holten undermines the heartbreaking climax of the final scene, too, by bringing both doubles back on stage at precisely the moment when Tatyana remembers how happy the couple could have been. … For every perceptive idea, there are at least two bad ones. Despite some decent central performances (though Keenlyside’s voice was a little threadbare by the end), …. “

David Nice, The Arts Desk, 6.2.2013

” … Not that the first act belongs entirely to Tatyana, as it so often does. Simon Keenlyside’s Onegin is very much present from the start thanks to Holten’s central conceit: then his young man is puppyish on arrival at the Larin country estate, not the usual aloof dandy, clearly attracted to Tatyana rather than her sister Olga. Is he role-playing, still unsure of himself, when he hands her back the letter? The production leaves it vague, but at least makes us feel for him. … “

Operatraveller, 6.2.2013

“… With an outstanding cast comprising some of today’s leading exponents of their roles, an important directorial voice making his house debut and a promising young conductor in the pit, this Yevgeny Onegin promised much. Did it finally deliver? Well I’m afraid that I’m not sure that it did. … Simon Keenlyside has always been one of my favourite singers and he gave an excellent performance. It’s true, the voice didn’t quite have the freshness in the upper register that it used to but the middle is still glorious. What I also liked about his performance is how he used the language to project the line and while he is not a fluent Russian speaker (neither am I for that matter), it seemed that he was so completely at home in the language. His acting also showed the clear progression to the frustrated and bitter man of the finale.  …”

Marwick Thompson, The Bloomberg, 6.2.2013

” … At least the singing is world class. Krassimira Stoyanova (Tatyana) has a rich melting sound, beautiful through and through, and Simon Keenlyside (Onegin) invests every note with warmth and passion. Pavol Breslik (Lensky) and Elena Maximova (Olga) provide superb support.  …”

Andrew Clark, Financial Times, 6.2.2013

” … There can be no such problem with Simon Keenlyside’s Onegin. From start to finish his anti-hero is socially and emotionally dysfunctional, which makes for a fascinating study – and Keenlyside, commanding the stage in voice, presence and gesture, makes the most of it. … “

Gawin Plumley, entartetemusik.blogspot, 6.2.2013

” … Holten’s theme is memory. Seeing the drama through an older Tatyana and Onegin’s eyes, youthful counterparts – played by two dancers – weave their way through the action. A good idea on paper proves confusing on stage. … Simon Keenlyside is in remarkable voice, building superbly to his climactic third act. …”

Richard Morrison, The Times, 6.2.2013

” … Musically, too, the evening has many qualities: Stoyanova’s strong and wonderfully expressive vocal line, Keenlyside’s convincingly immature then impotently rueful Onegin….  Meanwhile Robin Ticciati conducts a detailed, often beautifully tender and mostly well paced interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s masterly score: one that will gain in fervour, I hope, as the run progresses. …”

Melinda Hughes,Spear’s, 7.2.2013

” … Simon Keenlyside who sung Ongein, however, gives us his all on an almost pathological level; so immersed in character, muttering his thoughts and embroiled in the drama of this lost man on a course of utter self destruction, I thought he was going to self-combust. Keenlyside should be playing Richard III with the RSC on his days off just to give himself a break.  …”

Claire Seymour, Opera Today, 7.2.2013

” … Simon Keenlyside sings with a characteristically beautiful sense of phrasing and form, but he is not a natural fit for the role of Onegin. This Onegin is young and nonchalant rather than repressed and brooding; and Keenlyside’s engagement with the emotional depths of the role is, surprisingly, at times superficial. …”

Sam Smith, musicOHM.com, 9.2.2013

” … As Onegin, Simon Keenlyside has a rich, creamy voice that is equally effective in the lower and upper registers, and reveals great depth of tone. If his gestures initially appear too large and bold, it soon becomes clear that he knows how to generate presence and create a deeply troubled persona. …”

Barry Millington, The Standard, 11.2.2013

” … Simon Keenlyside’s Onegin is not suave but unkempt and sports a stained jacket. It’s a wonder they let him in. This knuckle-biting, stage-pacing characterisation suits Keenlyside’s restless stage persona; vocally too he brings frenzied ardour rather than icy detachment — and compelling it is too. …”

Boulezian Blog, 11.2.2013

” … I was a little disconcerted by Simon Keenlyside’s Onegin during the first act; it seemed coarser than I recalled from a few years ago. But dramatic truth gained over ‘mere’ beauty, for this Onegin gained in insight as the work progressed, quite in tandem with the production. As ever, Keenlyside’s way with words, just like Stoyanova’s, was pretty much beyond reproach.  …”

Roger Mortimer-Smith, Bachtrack.com, 14.2.2013

” … Keenlyside as Onegin sings with an unforced warmth and roundness, pronouncing his Russian very clearly (and, for all I know, correctly) … “

MichaelMigliore, MusicalCriticism.com, 14.2.2013

” … Simon Keenlyside seemed slightly ill, his high notes lacking their usual force of clarion tone that has become his hallmark, but he nevertheless tackled the difficult role with verve: his Onegin is a fully three-dimensional cad who you just can’t help but pity. …”

Operacreep, 15.2.2013

” … Another terrible example was the duel between Lensky and Yevgeny, with the dancer getting possession of the gun while Keenlyside looks on and mirrors his movements pointlessly. The apogee of this emptiness in the staging comes when the dancer actually pulls the trigger. It saps all the energy from this macho confrontation scene and renders it weak and almost incidental. You can imagine what must be going through Keenlyside’s head when he is being marginalised to such a degree during such a crucial scene. He did do his best but unfortunately I paid more attention to the branch that Breslik carried in for the duel, than the singers.

Overall the singing was from very good to excellent, Keenlyside admittedly took a while to warm up but he was absolutely wonderful in the last Act.  …”

Alexandra Coghlan, New Statesman, 15.2.2013

” … Simon Keenlyside makes for a persuasive Onegin, stalking the stage with dandified self-consciousness, only to see his control eroded, collapsing with potent release into his final confrontation with Tatyana. …”

Alejandro Martínez, Codalario.com, 16.2.2013

Translation will follow as soon as possible

” … Simon Keenlyside posee, qué duda cabe, el físico más apropiado que quepa imaginar entre los barítonos de hoy en día para el rol de Eugene Onegin. Y no hablamos sólo de su mera figura, sino de su actitud teatral. Él es Onegin, ese dandy seductor de modos elocuentes y ademanes condescendientes que ve en Tatiana una suerte de tentación prohibida. Es la suya una encarnación natural, casi asombrosa. Y servida, es cierto, por una recreación vocal más esforzada de lo que cabía imaginar, aunque lograda en última instancia. Y es que Keenlyside mostró, como es habitual en él, una línea de canto ejemplar, siempre teatral, alternando con idéntico dominio entre los momentos líricos y los enfáticos, pero algo lastrada por una dicción no todo lo impecable que debiera en ruso y por una emisión algo enturbiada por momentos, con sonidos duros en ocasiones. Y sin embargo, es un actor vocal consumado. De ahí que fuera, en términos general, de menos a más. No desmereció en modo alguno su aria del primer acto, tampoco su dúo con Lensky, ni mucho menos su notable dúo final con Stoyanova. Pero en todos los casos hubo alguna esporádica irregularidad vocal, algo más lejos, pues, de otras funciones vocalmente más logradas que le hemos visto este último año. En todo caso, un Onegin de altura, teatralísimo y vocalmente más que cumplidor. …”

Michael Tanner, The Spectator, 16.2.2013

” … Neither of the two principals — the singing ones — is in the first flush of youth, but both Stoyanova and Simon Keenlyside still have magnificent voices, and both can act, though what they are required to do is perverse. All told I found it hard to judge the musical level, since I found the total concept so miserably refrigerating. …”

Russ McDonald, Opera Magazine, 4/2013

” … Simon Keenlyside was a persuasive Onegin, vocally speaking; his theatrical confidence and musicality created a welcome sense of security. In the most intense bars of the score he may have been slightly wanting in power, but mostly he was able to match his partner note for note. …”

M. Lehnert, Opernglas 3/2013
Visited performances: 4.+6.2.2013

Translation will follow as soon as possible

” … Titelstar Simon Keenlyside hatte es ohnehin etwas leichter, da er sich, ganz gleich ob als Marquis Posa, Hamlet, Pelléas, Macbeth oder Eugen Onegin stets auch als Darsteller besonders einbringt und keine ganze Aufführung benötigt, um sich freizuspielen. Der Eindruck, dass sein gelegentlicher “Schatten” noch überflüssiger war, entstand vor allem, als die berühmte Polonaise auf Fürst Gremins fest anstatt von den Gästen getanz zu werden, zur Ballettpantomine geriet, die Keenlyside vor geschlossenen Türen mit sieben Nymphen ringen läßt, in Idee und Anlage der im Dezember am gleichen Ort gezeigten Lösung des berühmten “nonnenballetts” in der Premiere von Giacomo Meyerbeers “Robert le Diable” nicht unähnlich.
Attribute wie “kernig”, “stimmschön”, “ausdrucksstark”, sich “selbst verzehrend” umschreiben die stimmliche Darbietung und die Flexibilität des Baritons nicht ausreichend. Ihm gelang, vom Publikum heftig akklamiert, wie immer eine mitreißende, vollgültige Interpretation , bei der es in beiden Auffühurngen fast den Anschein hatte, als befruchteten sich Spiel und Gesang: Je mehr er sich bewegen konnte, umso schöner der Gesang. …”

George Hall, Opera News, 4.2.13

” … That the singers playing these roles were themselves physically mature — Simon Keenlyside (Onegin) is now fifty-three, Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova (Tatiana) fifty — may have played some part in his decision; neither could credibly suggest the ages of Pushkin’s characters at the beginning of his text, when Onegin is twenty-six and Tatiana presumably several years younger. In any case, the idea might have been more effective had it been less intensively pursued; as it was, the dancers created alternative centers of visual attention that distracted from the vocal protagonists ever more insistently as the evening wore on.

For all that, Keenlyside and Stoyanova gave performances of substantial accomplishment and detail. Keenlyside’s wide-ranging baritone registered as fully equipped to encompass the role’s vocal and expressive demands, even if a hint of strain was apparent later on; his virtuosity as a physical actor made his frequent upstaging by a second Onegin all the more regrettable. …”

opera-cake.blogspot.de,10.3.2013

” … This masterfully sculpted story is rich with scenic details of which I found particularly poignant the polonaise during which Simon Keenlyside (Onegin) was desperately trying to dance with ‘fictitious’ girls, but as soon as he would touch any one of them she would fall dead; he finally realizes that he’s doomed to be unhappy and alone for the rest of his life. In such a state of mind, seducing Tatyana again would mean life to him, and he indeed spills all his despair out to her, begging her to love him again, but the whole episode eventually turns to be emotionally fatal for all three of them (including Gremin). … Singingwise, Krassimira Stoyanova obviously rocked (like she did in the Herheim production at DNO in Amsterdam) — that woman is a living miracle. Everyone else was truly fantastic too: Pavol Breslik (impeccable, just like Andrey Dunaev!) & Simon Keenlyside (never better!) — excelled again like they did recently in Munich, …

Ekaterina Shapinskaya :“Eugene Onegin” from the point of view of the Other:
British Interpretation in Film and Opera Production

http://cult-cult.ru/eugene-onegin-from-the-point-of-view-of-the-other/

(the extracts in which Simon is mentioned translated Ekaterina for us)

“…Well-known English baritone Simon Keenlyside doing the role of Onegin has several perfomances of it in different European theatres to his credit. Though not speaking the language he used it so well that every line was projected and it seemed he was free in the language. Both the director and the performer say that only in the fusion of language and music the real beauty of Tchaikovsky’s and Poushkin’s text is brought out, and in spite of all the difficulties of singing on the unfamiliar language, only this gives the real impression to the spectator/listener.[18]

…But the difficulties of Russian pronunciation is not the main thing for creating a convincing rendering of an art work which has become a part of world heritage and at the sametime has the status of masterpiece of Russian culture. Opera has been from the start a cultural form greatly influenced by intercultural exchange. Russian opera school has been formed as a result of combination of authentic and borrowed elements, and in case of shifting it into alien cultural context the complexity of its music-cum-verbal-cum-imagery structure is growing….

…Another difficulty in productions of such type is finding in a popular text staged by different Russian and foreign opera theatres, known to British audience because of the film about which we wrote earlier, an original solution in the space where there are plenty of ways to show the Other as attractive and interesting. The director of this version of “Onegin” – Casper Holten, for whom this was the debut in Covent Garden, was mostly interested in the story of the lost past, of love which stayed back in youth, in the lyricism of remebrance. Hence his unusual doubling of Onegin and Tatyana sung by Simon Keenlyside and Krassimira Stoyanova by a ballet pair which shows in dance the story of failed love of the heroes.The ideas of the director, who belongs to the generation of globalization and dissipation of otherness, coincide with those of Martha Fiennes, the director of the film “Onegin”about the great stories crossing the time borders …[20] …

… No doubt, one of the most important points in staging a work belonging to different culture is the interpretation of the main characters, in this case of Onegin and Tatyana. In case of operatic Onegin understanding and embodiment of the hero is more complicated than that of “transparent” and lyrical character of Tatyana, having “Russian soul” but brought up on French novels and dreaming of love as any girl of her age. Onegin is a more complicated personality, embodying, as we pointed out earlier, the features of “existential other”. For the performer belonging to a different culture it is important to understand his essential otherness which is probably the core of his character. Simon Keenlyside speaks about the complexity of the character of young  Onegin which combines cynicism, charm, humour and who, as he puts it, unfortunately, did not understand the main thing in life. The otherness of Onegin has been emphasized by the artist – his anti-hero is socially and emotionally estranged… and Keenlyside renders it quite well due to mastery of voice and gesture….

This interpretation of the character is close to screen interpretation by Raif Fiennes who speaks about the importance of Onegin’s story today…. The coincidence of interpretation of the main character in the film and in the opera is not a matter of chance, it shows the tendency of European cultural producers to look for general human problems in a literary or musical text, for the possibilities of their solution or escape from them, for new understanding of such aspects of human existence… as love, memory and all types of interpersonal relations….”

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

ekaterina shapinskaya October 4, 2013 at 6:35 pm

http://www.cr-journal.ru/rus/journals/198.html&j_id=14

Shapinskaya E.N.
Russaian Classics in the View of the Other: “Evgeny Onegin” in British Interpretation.- In: Journal of Cultural Research, No 3(13)2013
… Evgeniy Onegin on ROH Stage
Another example of British cultural producers addressing Pushkin’s poetic narrative is in the field of music – it is Tchaikovsky’s opera “Evgeniy Onegin in ROH (Director Casper Holten, 2013). This production is relevant from the point of view of general interest to Russian classic music in the West, and implementing this interest is more difficult in opera than in other music forms, since singing is to be done in Russian. From linguistic point of view “otherness” of Russian culture is overcome with greater difficulty than in case of more common opera languages….
…Well-known English baritone Simon Keenlyside doing the role of Onegin has several perfomances of it in different European theatres to his credit. Though not speaking the language he used it so well that every line was projected and it seemed he was free in the language. Both the director and the performer say that only in the fusion of language and music the real beauty of Tchaikovsky’s and Poushkin’s text is brought out, and in spite of all the difficulties of singing on the unfamiliar language, only this gives the real impression to the spectator/listener.[18]
…But the difficulties of Russian pronunciation is not the main thing for creating a convincing rendering of an art work which has become a part of world heritage and at the sametime has the status of masterpiece of Russian culture. Opera has been from the start a cultural form greatly influenced by intercultural exchange. Russian opera school has been formed as a result of combination of authentic and borrowed elements, and in case of shifting it into alien cultural context the complexity of its music-cum-verbal-cum-imagery structure is growing….
…Another difficulty in productions of such type is finding in a popular text staged by different Russian and foreign opera theatres, known to British audience because of the film about which we wrote earlier, an original solution in the space where there are plenty of ways to show the Other as attractive and interesting. The director of this version of “Onegin” – Casper Holten, for whom this was the debut in Covent Garden, was mostly interested in the story of the lost past, of love which stayed back in youth, in the lyricism of remebrance. Hence his unusual doubling of Onegin and Tatyana sung by Simon Keenlyside and Krassimira Stoyanova by a ballet pair which shows in dance the story of failed love of the heroes.The ideas of the director, who belongs to the generation of globalization and dissipation of otherness, coincide with those of Martha Fiennes, the director of the film “Onegin” about the great stories crossing the time borders …[20] …
… No doubt, one of the most important points in staging a work belonging to different culture is the interpretation of the main characters, in this case of Onegin and Tatyana. In case of operatic Onegin understanding and embodiment of the hero is more complicated than that of “transparent” and lyrical character of Tatyana, having “Russian soul” but brought up on French novels and dreaming of love as any girl of her age. Onegin is a more complicated personality, embodying, as we pointed out earlier, the features of “existential other”. For the performer belonging to a different culture it is important to understand his essential otherness which is probably the core of his character. Simon Keenlyside speaks about the complexity of the character of young Onegin which combines cynicism, charm, humour and who, as he puts it, unfortunately, did not understand the main thing in life. The otherness of Onegin has been emphasized by the artist – his anti-hero is socially and emotionally estranged… and Keenlyside renders it quite well due to mastery of voice and gesture….
This interpretation of the character is close to screen interpretation by Raif Fiennes who speaks about the importance of Onegin’s story today…. The coincidence of interpretation of the main character in the film and in the opera is not a matter of chance, it shows the tendency of European cultural producers to look for general human problems in a literary or musical text, for the possibilities of their solution or escape from them, for new understanding of such aspects of human existence… as love, memory and all types of interpersonal relations….
[18] См.: URLhttp://www.roh.org.uk/productions/eugene-onegin-by-kasper-holten
[20] URL http://www.ralphfiennes-jenniferlash.com/article.php?id=130

Bill Palik April 15, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I finally got to see Onegin yesterday in the cinema up in Cedar Rapids, 30 miles north of where I live. I guess I could boast that the audience was double the size of my Macbeth cinema experience of two years ago, in that one other guy stumbled in and went to sit in the back row for the whole thing, wearing a seed cap and a Hawkeye team shirt… Evidently the Covent Garden (and La Scala and other) productions in the amazing opera and ballet series shown at that cinema are very ill-publicized. The Met simulcasts I attend in Iowa City, with its much smaller population, are usually well attended, so I don’t get it – Anyway, I enjoyed Onegin more than I had expected to, given the negative reviews above. First of all, the singing was above average to excellent across the board, including (of course) Simon, whose acting however seemed arguably a bit too broad in some respects, but perhaps this played better in the opera house than in the cinema closeups. I was hoping that perhaps the production had improved or learned something over its run, with some attendant changes made – not seeing Gremin initially in the final scene, I was hoping he would stay out of it, but finally he barged in and stood there fuming needlessly on the sidelines. Also, in his big aria in the previous scene, Gremin seems suddenly to become incongruously incensed in the B section, ripping Onegin’s coat off his shoulder, then proceeding to offer Eugene a courteous introduction to Tatyana – none of this made any sense. Oddly, the Doppelgänger Eugene and Tatyana had the effect (which should come as no surprise) of externalizing and objectifying matters at just the moments when things should have been most subjective and intimate. The idea of the whole opera being a flashback does not function, but the production per se is not beyond salvage – Gremin’s intrusions and the dancing doubles could be done away with or curtailed in future repetitions without much problem. Simon and Stoyanova may not be in the first flush of youth, but both moved and sang and acted convincingly much younger than their years. What happens when the principal singers in a future staging of this production are 30 rather than 50? Will they slather on makeup to age them to a degree that would justify the young doubles?? Anyway, I sometimes had to avert my eyes from the graphic writhings of the dancers, which crudely underlined emotions that are amply portrayed in Tchaikovsky’s music and the text as sung, and dispersed the dramatic effect just when you wanted more unity and depth. All that said, I shall still rush to buy the DVD or Blu-Ray if and when it is released, as a record of some beautiful singing and to keep a snapshot of Simon’s Onegin, despite its flaws. Breslik, as in the Munich production a year ago, sang wonderfully. Stoyanova was a pleasant discovery for me. And Simon, as ever, is a peerless stage animal, and bravo to him for being as convincing as possible, and throwing himself body and soul into each production he is involved in, whatever his reservations might be.

Sue March 27, 2013 at 4:20 pm

http://www.premiereopera.com/ have just announced their April new releases which include both DVD and CD recordings of the Covent Garden Eugene Onegin.

Lee Kefauver February 28, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Thank you for publishing the German site for the radio broadcast of ROH’s Eugene Onegin on Tuesday. I was able to access the station and enjoyed hearing the performance in which all the performers were excellent. I had no opportunity to see the performance, but You Tube posted the final scene and you alerted me to it. Thank you, I think. If this was an example of the whole performance, I have to question the sanity of ROH’s management in hiring this director.

What to say? The critics were kind. The final scene of Eugene Onegin was written as a duet of high emotion and drama. Kasper Holten presented it as an attempt to copy a bad film of Ingmar Bergman. He injected forced symbolism through the whole scene, which distracted from the drama. As a member of the “audience” my attention was diverted from Onegin’s and Tatyana’s anguish to asking questions. Why was the body of Lensky still on the stage? Perhaps after Pavol Breslik fell to the stage after being “shot,” he fell asleep and no one wanted to disturb him? Why was that strained symbolism of the dead branch still on the stage? Had the stage hands gone on strike? Why did Peter Rose enter a scene which was much more dramatic with only the two principals performing? Perhaps he got lost on the way to his dressing room, opened the wrong door and decided to fake it out? And the interruption of the younger couple did not enhance, but only interfered with Tchaikovsky’s intended dramatic climax.

Instead of a dramatic climax in which Tatyana exits the stage and Onegin is left alone, Holten had Tatyana sit down and read her book, accompanied by a “dead” body and stared at by her husband, while Onegin exits. No climax at all! As SK turned and exited through one of the many doors, I was sure he was mumbling, “I’m out of here!”

Marilyn February 26, 2013 at 11:43 pm

Well, I thought the Onegin broadcast today on BR Klassik was quite spectacular. . . The singing by all three principals was outstanding . . . I don’t speak Russian, but I thought Simon’s Russian sounded authentic . . . And so clear! He can certainly hold his own with his Slavic colleagues!
Such glorious music . . . It surely will survive any questionable productions . . . As will all operatic masterpieces!
Cheers to all!

Marilyn

Kew February 23, 2013 at 5:07 am

Finally I’ve seen it in the last 2 performances. Going through the various reviews and personal comments posted here, I thought I’ve got myself ready to see Holten’s Onegin without being shocked. However, I found myself further confused with this unique production while sitting in the auditorium. Like most of you, I did not see any point to have doppelganger dancers of young Tatyana and Onegin, but I think that my issue is about a wide deviation from the Pushkin’s original novel. The libretto of this opera was brilliantly and skillfully created by referring to the Pushkin’s text. In this sense, Olga and Onegin characterizations, Gremin’s appearing at the Tatyana and Onegin final confrontation, etc. are all creations of the director. And yet, the stage installations and costumes were rather classic, faithful to the times set in the Pushkin’s novel. These seemed very inconsistent to me. If the production had been put in the completely different, modern times, like ‘70s or ‘80s, and had been sung in English, German, or whatever language except for Russian, I would have appreciated it more without remembering the Pushkin’s since all the performers magnificently sang and acted. Having said that, I would not want to see Gremin at the final scene even if in a different production, which, in my view, makes this wonderful work of art a cheap soap opera.

Regardless of my negative personal view, I must admit that I felt very fortunate to see SK, Krassimira S, and Pavol B’s excellent performances in person.

Lastly, to Vivienne, in the Pushkin’s novel, Gremin was one of old, and perhaps close, friends of Onegin, and he must have known Onegin’s past life in St. Petersburg before his moving to the country.

Cheers
Kew

Beckford February 22, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Saw Eugene Onegin in Oxford at the cinema live from Covent Garden Opera House and thought it was a very original and wonderful production. Very clever. Kept you guessing at the beginning but once I had realised about the switch back, I was moved. As for Simon’s singing he reduced me to tears! Bravo I say.

FRANCES BECKFORD

Marilyn February 21, 2013 at 2:48 pm

On the ROH site with the comments about the HD transmission, there’s a wonderful 8-minute video that I believe was done later on in the preparation period . . . some very good sections and comments by the principals . . . don’t miss this!

Marilyn

diana jones February 21, 2013 at 10:22 am

I saw Eugene Onegin in the cinema last night, and I think it was, in some parts, even better than the performance I saw last week. The only fault I could find was with the close-up camerawork, which was sometimes a little too close, for instance, during Lensky’s aria. It would have been better if the camera had panned out a little so that we could have seen the torment Onegin was suffering while watching his friend. Instead, we got a wonderful view of Pavol Breslik’s tonsils for most of the aria! I still found the scene very moving, but not quite so effective as it had been when I had the whole of the scene in front of me.
I think, judging by the audience reaction at the end, that there were not too many dissatisfied customers last night!
Now looking forward to the tv broadcast, and eventually the dvd, which I hope will include the interesting comments from cast members and Kasper Holten that cinema viewers were treated to.

May I add a word of praise for the excellent singing of the male “peasant” soloist, who I think, from the cast list in the programme notes, was Elliot Goldie. What a beautiful voice! I hope we hear more of him in the future.

Vivienne February 21, 2013 at 1:35 am

I agree with Diana’s view of the production. Saw it tonight in the cinema, not at the ROH. I know the music very well, but it was a help to have sur or are they sub-titles to fully undrstand everything. I thought the singing was pretty well faultless all round, SK was in fine voice as was Krassimira Stoyanova, and I found their acting absolutely superb. It was certainly different to see Onegin fooling around and showing his boredom so openly some of the time, but like Diana, it moved me to tears when he silently expressed his wish that the duel had never been arranged. I did find it a little hard to get used to the doubles, easier with the Tatyana double whose every movement expressed so much torment and emotion, she was really wonderful.

Why did Lensky drag in that dead tree? As a symbol of his own death?

I’ve never seen Gremin actually appearing to lecture Onegin as if he knows his past history, or was this meant to represent his words (which I picked up from the subtitles!) making Onegin feel guilty when in fact no lecture was intended? Also never seen Gremin watching that final farewell – that seemed strange to me, and a little unnecessary to see horror on his face. I always understood that scene is private between the two characters. All in all though a wonderful and very emotional evening.

Bill Palik February 18, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Terence and Diana:
I am not sure why you should “eagerly” anticipate my reaction to this Onegin – I have seen it a few times on DVD (Leyferkus from Kirov, also Hvorostovsky and Fleming) and a few times in live performance (including Hvorostovsky’s supposedly last portrayal of Onegin at Chicago Lyric a few seasons back), and of course saw last season’s version from Munich on DVD. In any case, by the time I get to experience the current Covent Garden production in cinema in mid-April, the whole subject may be rather stale beer…

Sue February 18, 2013 at 4:34 pm

‘Breakfast’ on BBC Radio 3 this morning described Eugene Onegin as creating ‘quite a buzz’ and announced BBC TV Channel 4 will be broadcasting it sometime in April plus the Radio 3 broadcast in May.

diana jones February 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm

I wasn’t being kind, Terence, I was giving my opinion of what I saw and heard, and as I said in my comment, it is entirely subjective. I know it wasn’t a brilliant production, and I’m sure there are many people, clearly yourself included, who would have hated it more than I did. It is always a sensitive matter when a much-loved work is “tampered” with by the director. However, I thought the performers did their best with what they had to work with, and it was all beautifully sung, and well acted when the “doubles” weren’t there getting in the way. I didn’t agree with Kasper Holten’s view of the young Onegin being so boyish and flirty, but since that is what he asked for, Simon did an excellent job of portraying him thus. And whatever it’s faults, this production is infinitely better than that awful one in Munich last year! And Bill, you are obviously going to form your own opinion when you see it, and I look forward to reading your comments, favourable or not.

Terence February 15, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Bill, of course you should keep an open mind but if you love this opera(and how can one not) I feel you are going to be as disappointed or as infuriated as I was. Diana was at the same performance as me and I think she is being very kind in her text. I, like her, have seen numerous productions and know this work quite well and I actually came to think that it was a directorial descision to not have the surtitles working(over hearing others in the crush bar during the interval,I was not the only one with this conspiritorial view!)as the action on stage was not portraying what I remember of the story. Did anybody else see the Bolshoi Opera production a couple of years ago? This for me is so far the definitive production, bursting with original ideas but faithful to the composers original concept, even making sense of why Onegin actually kills his best friend in the duel. It is the one version that I would like to have on DVD but alas it doesn’t appear to be available. I eagerly await your post performance comments Bill.

Bill Palik February 13, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Thanks, Diana, for your encouraging report. Who knows what effect will come of the camera work involved in the simulcast on Feb 20, but it could actually work to decrease the confusion caused by having two Eugenes and two Tatyanas onstage. In any case, despite whatever reservations I may have after seeing the production, you may rest assured that the DVD from Opus Arte will find a place on my Simon shelf… I will keep fingers crossed for a stellar performance on Feb 20.

diana jones February 13, 2013 at 10:19 am

Well Bill, after reading a lot of negative reviews of this production I was determined to keep an open mind when I went to see it on Monday evening. I have to say that the performance was excellent, the production maybe not so excellent, but I suppose that is entirely subjective. It had some good moments, but overall, for me, it had rather too much of Kasper Holten and not enough Pushkin! It didn’t help that on the night I went the surtitles weren’t working for the whole of Act 1, and although I know the opera, I don’t know it well enough to follow it easily without them! Simon was excellent of course, his acting (and dancing!) wonderful, and despite what some earlier critics had said, there was nothing wrong with his voice. He sang divinely! And he moved me to tears in the duel scene. I would like to have seen more of Krassimira Stoyanova’s acting abilities, but most of the time she was forced to just stand on the side and sing while her “younger self” leaped and rolled around the stage. Very distracting! I began to wonder if Holten had got confused and thought he was working on Onegin the ballet rather than Eugene Onegin the opera! However, there was a lot to enjoy, and I shall be going to see it in the cinema too, when who knows, maybe I’ll get to appreciate some of the oddities a bit more second time around! I hope you enjoy it Bill, and if you do, you’ll be pleased to know that, according to the programme notes, it will be released eventually on Opus Arte dvd.

Bill Palik February 13, 2013 at 3:11 am

Despite several negative impressions of the current Onegin production, I will keep my hopes up that, when I eventually see the opera in the cinema, it will be an interesting musical and dramatic experience. I have seen two excerpts from Onegin as sung by Gerald Finley at Covent Garden and ENO in the recent past on youtube. Did anybody in the group attend either of those two productions? It seemed in those instances that the singers, production, and Tchaikovsky’s music were (in an apparently rare stroke of good fortune) allowed to mesh into a satisfying whole – but of course I can only judge by what was put up on youtube.
Bill

Terence February 12, 2013 at 11:54 am

I saw the performance last night(11/01/13) and I am still recovering from seeing my favourite opera(well,almost) virtually destroyed by Kasper Holtens totally illconceived realisation of this gorgeous work. Poor SK, he has now been saddled with two donkies! The Vienna production was laughable this one infuriating. I hope that this is not an indication of what is to come from Mr Holtens directorship.
We did get some fine singing from all the cast though.

Jane February 7, 2013 at 7:48 am

Precisely, Lee!!!!!

Lee Kefauver February 6, 2013 at 11:16 pm

I fondly hope that someday SK will be able to perform in a production of Eugene Onegin that will have a director who understands music, respects the composer, and is able to lay aside his/her gigantic ego and respect the performers and the audience. My two teachers of opera directing taught us that the composer most often puts direction in the music, instructing the performer what he wants. During the broadcast of the rehearsal, Simon was right about singers understanding the musical cues. It is sad that the director did not and, evidently, the production suffered as a result.

diana jones February 6, 2013 at 10:18 am

There was a review of the opening night of Eugene Onegin (not altogether complimentary!) by the editor of Opera Now magazine on Radio 3’s Night Waves late last night, and should still be available via iplayer.

Diana.

Sue January 12, 2013 at 5:40 pm

So very interesting to hear all of your comments and to read those posted on the Royal Opera House site following the day’s fascinating streaming, including:-
‘I wish Keenlyside tons of patience to endure this bla, bla, bla…(from KH) and would love to hear his no doubt great (sic) Oneguin!’
I’m currently reading a, new to me, translation in preparation for my trip to Covent Garden in February (I can’t wait!) and haven’t yet found support for what appeared from the rehearsal to be Kaspar Holten’s approach. It would have been interesting to hear from Robin Ticciati but perhaps this occasion wasn’t appropriate (or he was keeping his head down in a very public situation!)
But surely the point is that it is Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, not Pushkin’s and, as Simon said in the rehearsal, interpretative clues are in the music as well as the libretto. Obviously, non-Russian speakers are in the hands of translators but the music speaks too. With the priceless help of SK Info, it was interesting to re-visit the reviews of the 2009 Vienna production which received the interpretation and performance very well – if not the staging.
Simon has said that he tries to learn something about his roles, even from productions he doesn’t agree with. However, this was early in the rehearsal process so let’s hope that directors listen and learn too! I await this production with great interest, anticipation and excitement.

Ally January 12, 2013 at 2:43 am

Thanks to ROH, we can watch this video now – and thanks to SK Team!!

I’d like to add my 5 cents. To watch the rehearsal was an emotional experience. Maybe it’s the only opera rehearsal led by stage director (not conductor) that I’ve ever watched in real life or in documentaries. In the very beginning of the work it’s all about “logistics”, where to go, when to stop, when to turn. It might be boring but I liked it. Last by not least, it’s a Russian opera; my native language, born and raised with Pushkin and Tchaikovsky, know the melodies and words by heart since my childhood.

Jane, Holten was absolutely right calling “Eugene Onegin” a novel. It’s a Russian tradition, any other lengthy poem is still a “poem” but the one and only “EO” is a “novel in verse”. In the short interview (next to the rehearsal video) Holten said that he studied Russian to read Pushkin. It explains a lot. He knows the language a bit and it was nice that he said the most frequent director’s word during rehearsals – “again!!” in Russian (“еще раз” – pronunciation [ischo raz]). I loved it :))

I admire Mr. Holten’s Russian studies but it doesn’t mean that I completely agree with his interpretation of the scene. “Onegin is a young man, so he is emotionally ignorant” doesn’t work for me. A man in his early 20th in the beginning of the XIX century is the same as 30-something nowadays, a mature person, not a naïve boy. Holten stuck with the word “confession”, Onegin’s own word, “I entrust myself to your judgment” and so on. Tatiana in the last act calls Eugene’s monolog a “sermon”. Here is the difference: confession means vulnerable and dependable (I don’t think it is about Onegin), sermon means superior (OK, experienced) and distant.

It was also interesting how singers try not to abuse their voices. Krassimira sang exactly what was in the score but almost inaudible. Simon, Jane is right, sometimes sang, full volume. But! I really don’t know whether or not the tessitura is good for his voice, but every time when a note was a little bit higher than his comfortable zone he ‘lowered’ it. It was not what Tchaikovsky wrote and it was not what he would be singing in rehearsals with the conductor.

“I close. I dare not to reread…” (stolen from Tatiana’s letter). Toooo long message, indeed, not a declared 5 cents, rather 50 :))

Lucia January 11, 2013 at 3:30 pm

I found it quite interesting too!! It’s a priviledge to have access to these moments behind the scenes. Personally, I haven’t had occasion to read the poem, but I find the new take somewhat refreshing: that thing Holten said about Onegin knowing about love games more that Tatyana but when it comes to emotions being just as ignorant as her stuck with me. (I’m certainly not saying that Onegin is a lovesick boy but maybe he doesn’t have to be an all-knowing urban man simply telling a girl “to get over it”, or at least that’s my impression). I still think what we saw is a fairly early rehearsal and they are trying some things to see how well they go. Simon, as you said, is seasoned performer and a very intelligent one; if it doesn’t ring true, it’ll certainly come up.

I’m *really* looking forward to this wonderful production as it will be broadcasted live here in Buenos Aires and it’ll be the second time I am able to watch Simon at my local cinema!!

Thank you very much as always for all the updates!! 🙂

Jane January 11, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I forgot to say that after all the discussion and the unexciting business of marking through where and how Simon was walking and how Krassimira would be standing, there were those few glorious moments when Simon actually sang!! Wonderful!

Jane January 11, 2013 at 1:18 am

I found it really interesting too and I am by no means surprised that Simon is unsure about some of Kaspar Holten’s ideas on Onegin’s attitude to Tatyana. He claims (KH) to have studied the original, yet for one thing, he called it a novel….er, hang on, it’s an extended poem and when I studied it, admittedly ages ago, I don’t recall Onegin being too fussed about Tatyana’s feelings at the start of the story. Pushkin basically introduces him as indulged, superficial and arrogant. (I have just refreshed my memory by re-reading the first couple of pages – I shall have to study it more closely over the next few weeks!) Ah well, as Marilyn says, it will be interesting to see who prevails. It must be tricky for Simon, being a seasoned performer, when he encounters some one who has less experience than he has, but is in the driving seat, as it were. I know one should keep an open mind…..but quite frankly it would drive me nuts! Good luck to Simon!

Marilyn January 8, 2013 at 8:15 pm

This rehearsal was absolutely fascinating . . . It’s available for the next couple days, and is well worth watching. Holten is definitely trying to get Simon to try some things that Simon isn’t sure about, but he’s willing to give them a go . . . the interaction between the two shows real respect, but divergent opinions. It will be interesting to see who wins out in the end! All of the Onegin rehearsal coverage takes place during about the first hour and 10 minutes of the stream.

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