Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A disappointing Eugene Onegin from the Royal Opera in London

Pavol Breslik as Lensky and Simon Keenlyside as Eugene Onegin.

Broadcasts of opera performances from the Royal Opera in London are rare treats. That's why it was with great expectations I began to watch the Royal Opera's new production of Eugene Onegin, which also was RO's director Kasper Holten's directorial debut at Covent Garden

However, it did not take long before my enthusiasm turned into disappointment. Although it was a welcome surprise that the setting was quite traditional, it was clear from the very beginning that Holten's "invention" - to introduce "doppelgängers" for the main characters - was a nonstarter.

It is not difficult to agree with what the Guardian's eminent critic Andrew Clements wrote about Holten's debut:

If Eugene Onegin is a study of how an intelligent man can ruin his life by rejecting the woman who could have been his soul mate and killing his best friend in a duel, then Kasper Holten's production of it is an equally convincing demonstration of how an intelligent director can destroy one of the greatest operas in the repertoire. It's Holten's first staging as director of opera at Covent Garden, which suggests it's a work in which he feels he has something special to offer. But much of what he puts on stage undermines the carefully plotted dramaturgy; it also runs counter to what is left unsaid in Tchaikovsky's libretto, but is clear from Pushkin's poem, to which the opera is so faithful.

Here the action unfolds through the memories of the older Tatyana and Lensky, who watch their younger selves play out the tragedy. 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.
Read the entire article here

Let's hope that the next Holten staging at the Royal Opera House will be more succesful than this one! 

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