[Met Performance] CID:351841
Eugene Onegin {122} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/09/2007., Sirius Broadcast live

(Debut: Svetlana Volkova
Broadcast/Streamed
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 9, 2007 Broadcast/Streamed


EUGENE ONEGIN {122}
P. I. Tchaikovsky-P. I. Tchaikovsky/Shilovsky

Eugene Onegin...........Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Tatiana.................Renée Fleming
Lensky..................Ramón Vargas
Olga....................Elena Zaremba
Prince Gremin...........Sergei Aleksashkin
Larina..................Svetlana Volkova [Debut]
Filippyevna.............Larisa Shevchenko
Triquet.................Jean-Paul Fouchécourt
Captain.................Keith Miller
Zaretsky................Richard Bernstein
Dance...................Sam Meredith
Dance...................Linda Gelinas

Conductor...............Valery Gergiev

Production..............Robert Carsen
Designer................Michael Levine
Lighting Designer.......Jean Kalman
Choreographer...........Serge Bennathan
Stage Director..........Peter McClintock

Revival a gift of The Dr. M. Lee Pearce Foundation and the Jane W. Nuhn Charitable Trust

Broadcast live on Sirius Metropolitan Opera Radio
Streamed live at metopera.org

Eugene Onegin received seven performances this season

Production photos of Eugene Onegin by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Review of David J. Baker in the May 2007 issue of OPERA NEWS

The Met's "Eugene Onegin" (seen Feb. 9) had the fresh vitality of a new production, though the staging originated in 1997. A new conductor and cast made the difference, starting with the definitive performance by Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the title role. Thanks to the baritone's native fluency in the Russian language and culture, his bored, spoiled, narcissistic charmer of an Onegin, finally heard here for the first time, seemed to restore some of Pushkin's layers of irony and self-absorption that the opera glosses over.

Hvorostovsky's debonair vocal style has never been more appropriate to a role. Even if a few forte top notes sounded reedy, his performance was memorable for the overall vitality of his timbre and its smart musical deployment - not to mention his command of gesture, his defiant stance and a palpable sense of Onegin's vanity. Robert Carsen's production works hard to underline these traits, as, for example, in the drawn-out onstage change of clothing during the [beginning] music to Act III, but Hvorostovsky made such interventions seem superfluous.

If the evening had one supreme moment, it was surely this Onegin's final dismissal of Tatiana's naïve appeal, his kindly but condescending comment that the young woman will go on to inspire other admirers. The famous Hvorostovsky breath control allowed him to float the lines in a perfectly shaped mezza voce that, while it paid the young lady a compliment, also glowed with self-satisfaction. The beauty of his delivery had a special impact, coming immediately after he has advised her to learn self-control.

Moments like this - and there were others - showed the expert touch of Valery Gergiev, a conductor who has not always been known for his rhythmic clarity or considerate support of singers. For the most part, Gergiev created ample comfort zones for the lyrical finesse of the principals, while avoiding explosive orchestral extremes in the more hectic passages. His supple approach evoked the beauties of the orchestral writing, especially for woodwinds, and kept things taut with foreboding but no bombast.

Tchaikovsky's vocal writing has its idiosyncrasies, in particular an Italianate lyric line that alternates with a quasi-Wagnerian use of low-lying parlando. The low tessitura made mezzo Elena Zaremba sound too old as the flirtatious Olga and forced Renee Fleming, in her first Met Tatiana, to rely on harsh chest tones to project the first half of her letter scene. But at each opportunity for soft legato singing and in her expansive higher phrases, Fleming cast her customary spell. Her big solo ended with some unfortunate stage business - audible laughter and cavorting in the fallen leaves - but vocally it was moving.

Fleming's Russian seemed unforced, and her characterization had an endearing directness, with careful delineation of Tatiana's maturation. The final scene found Fleming and Hvorostovsky splendidly matched, as if inspiring one another to enact a tense and finally desperate confrontation, as the two characters give every sign of fighting for their emotional lives.

Ramón Vargas took some time to settle into his first Lenski in the house. A recent indisposition, or possibly the uncongenial Russian language, may have accounted for a drier sound than usual, although his final aria, in the duel scene, found him totally effective. The tenor's sense for the shape of a phrase never seems at issue.

Michael Levine's sets have none of the charm of his costumes. The bare box of a stage sometimes works against mood-setting, but it never detracted from the richly characterized musical performances. Svetlana Volkova, making her company debut, sang warmly as the girls' mother, while the other delightful character roles were served up delectably by Larissa Shevchenko (the nurse), Sergei Aleksashkin (Prince Gremin) and the awesomely stylish Jean-Paul Fouchecourt as Triquet. That character's French couplet, "A cette fete conviés," achieved a poise and elasticity that perfectly justified the extreme slowness of the tempo. The moment added to the sense that Gergiev was joyously rediscovering and redefining a well-traveled score.



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