Posts Tagged ‘Bolshoi Opera’

Eugene Onegin (Bolshoi Opera) Royal Opera House 11 August

August 12, 2010


Sitting round a table

Before this performance began, my companion had got a little confused about whether we were going to see a ballet or an opera.  I reassured her that even though it was an opera we would see some dances.

But we saw a table instead.

To begin with, the Larin household sat round the table with presumed peasants bringing presumed harvest offerings also sitting round it while Tatyana sat at the edge and looked the other way.  Then Lensky and Onegin arrived and at one stage Mrs Larina claimed that Onegin and Tatyana (who were in fact in front of her) were down by the lake.  Tatyana told the Nurse her secrets from the other side of the table, wrote her letter at the table, shoved the table out of the way to implore divine mercy.  Then in the morning Onegin lectured her from the other side of the table.

A lecture from Onegin

We had a ball were nobody danced because the table took up most of the room (and for a few other reasons as well), but drunken extras swayed about.  Monsieur Triquet’s number was delivered by Lensky, with suggestive accompanying gestures and a toy dog.  Lensky’s farewell aria was attended to only by an old lady, while Olga busied herself about the table.  Onegin arrived for the duel accompanied by his servant Guillot, who cackled incessantly.  The duel consisted of Onegin and Lensky attempting to press a hunting-rifle on each other until Onegin managed to accidentally shoot Lensky in the stomach.

At the interval, we discussed the following ideas:

1)  if you’re a Russian opera company, you must get a bit bored with Eugene Onegin, hence the need to take the piss;

2)  some of it was certainly a return to Pushkin–Tchaikovsky  romanticised and sugared-over the original novel in verse, which had a lot of irony and sarcasm regarding its characters;

3)  as in many productions of Wagner, it was necessary for the director to contradict everything said by the music and the text to show that he was cleverer than us all;

4)  some of it looked like turning the thing into a typical Dostoevskian skandal;

5)  it was just incompetent direction–you needed lots of people on the stage all the time doing something irrelevant to keep the audience entertained;

6) unplumbed salt estranging table;

7) it was trying to convey the character’ total isolation from each other.  I wondered if it was the view from inside Onegin’s head, but that would make no sense since the Larin place would have seemed dreadfully poky to him, not terrifyingly large.  The view from inside Tatyana’s head perhaps?–That sounds more promising…

8)  didn’t I once see a Queen of Spades that had a card-table and card-players in all the scenes?

The beginning of the third act was greeted by a groan as audience members realised the table was still there.

Hopes crushed by a table...

Apart from Onegin wearing a sparkly jacket and indulging himself in a pratfall, the third act passed off quite normally and Gremin’s aria shone like a ray of sunlight amidst the stormy weather.

As Gremin, Anatoly Kocherga was masterful (though displaying a noticeable gear-change in the voice).  Makvala Kasrashvili as Mrs Larina didn’t sound very Russian to me, while Tatyana Monogarova was conducting a one-woman consonant-elimination campaign and did rather descend into the generalised shriekiness of Tchaikovsky’s less popular operatic heroines.  Aleksei Dolgov’s Lensky lacked the true tenor ring, but I liked the Onegin of Mariusz Kwiecen and  I thought he came off best of the singers.  At times I wondered whether the orchestra (conducted by Dmitri Jurowski) were guying the music as well, but maybe they were just playing loudly.

Director and Set Designer Dmitri Cherniakov has got me beat.

don’t understand

I’m not clever enough