[Met Performance] CID:355023
New Production
Eugene Onegin {136} Metropolitan Opera House: 09/23/2013., Metropolitan Opera Radio Sirius XM channel 74 Broadcast live
Streamed at metopera.org
Plazacast/Times Squarecast

(Opening Night {129}
Peter Gelb, General Manager
Debuts: Deborah Warner, Fiona Shaw, Tom Pye, Chloe Obolensky, Ian William Galloway, Finn Ross
Broadcast/Streamed/Times Squarecast/Plazacast

Metropolitan Opera House
September 23, 2013 Broadcast/Streamed/Times Squarecast/Plazacast
Opening Night {129}

Peter Gelb, General Manager

New Production

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky--Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky/Konstantin Shilovsky/Alexander Pushkin

Eugene Onegin...........Mariusz Kwiecien
Tatiana.................Anna Netrebko
Lensky..................Piotr Beczala
Olga....................Oksana Volkova
Prince Gremin...........Alexei Tanovitski
Larina..................Elena Zaremba
Filippyevna.............Larissa Diadkova
Triquet.................John Graham-Hall
Captain.................David Crawford
Zaretsky................Richard Bernstein
Offstage voice..........David Lowe

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

Production..............Deborah Warner [Debut]
Stage Director..........Fiona Shaw [Debut]
Set Designer............Tom Pye [Debut]
Costume Designer........Chloe Obolensky [Debut]
Lighting Designer.......Jean Kalman
Video Designer..........Finn Ross [Debut]
Video Designer..........Ian William Galloway [Debut]
Choreographer...........Kim Brandstrup

The production a gift of Ambassador and Mrs. Nicholas F. Taubman

The live transmission to Times Square and the Josie Robertson Plaza at Lincoln Center are made possible with the cooperation of the City of New York, with leadership support provided by Bloomberg and the Metropolitan Opera Guild. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with City Council.

Broadcast live on Metropolitan Opera Radio Sirius XM channel 74
Streamed live at metopera.org
Transmitted to screens at Lincoln Center Plaza and Times Square

The National Anthem was played before the performance

A co-production of the Metropolitan Opera and English National Opera

Eugene Onegin received thirteen performances this season.

Review of Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times

A Fight for Love. In the Met and Out

"Eugene Onegin" Opens Metropolitan Opera Season

By tradition the gala opening night of a Metropolitan Opera season is a fashionable and pricey affair. But during his tenure as general manager of the company, Peter Gelb has also made opening night a statement of artistic purpose, as it was on Monday when the Met began the season with a new production of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin," a landmark Russian opera based on the novel in verse by Pushkin.

The production, by Deborah Warner, directed by Fiona Shaw (there are some complications to this story), starred the appealing Polish baritone Marisuz Kwiecien as the dashing but aloof Onegin, a bored aristocrat; the glamorous Russian soprano Anna Netrebko as Tatiana, the bookish young dreamer who falls impulsively for Onegin; and the Russian maestro Valery Gergiev conducting an insightful and rhapsodic, if sometimes untidy, account of Tchaikovsky's great score.

Opening nights under Mr. Gelb have become a gift to the people of New York. The performance was broadcast live on huge outdoor video screens in Lincoln Center Plaza and Times Square.

As things turned out, Mr. Gelb also felt compelled to make another kind of statement on this opening night. For weeks an online petition had been gathering signatures (more than 9,000 to date) calling for the Met to dedicate opening night to gay Russians as a protest against the law signed in June by President Vladimir V. Putin banning "propaganda on nontraditional sexual relations hips." As the general director of the storied Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Mr. Gergiev has received crucial support from Mr. Putin and the government. He and Ms. Netrebko, longtime colleagues, were open advocates for Mr. Putin's election last year.

In addition, a contingent of about three dozen protesters stood near Lincoln Center Plaza on Monday calling for Mr. Gergiev and Ms. Netrebko to speak out against Mr. Putin's policies. And in the house, just before the start of the opera, activists in the uppermost balcony shouted, "Putin, end your war on Russian gays" and more. After a couple of minutes, the demonstrators were led out and the opera proceeded without interference.

The opening-night program book included an insert with a statement by Mr. Gelb, first published on Sunday by Bloomberg News, in which, while deploring the "tyranny of Russia's new antigay laws," he explains why it would be inappropriate for the Met to dedicate a particular performance to a social or political cause, that the Met cannot be "a vehicle for waging nightly battles against the social injustices of the world."

It has been terrible to see the rights of gay people in Russia trampled upon. Still, to make the Met the target of this call for action seems not entirely fair. Street protest is in the best American tradition and the activists seized this opportunity to put their case directly to Mr. Gergiev and Ms. Netrebko. But interrupting a performance in the opera house on a high-pressured opening night is another matter, though these protesters clearly cooperated with the security guards.

For now, let me put aside these difficult questions and get to the new "Eugene Onegin."

Mr. Gelb has raised the stakes for every new production at the Met by talking up how essential it is for opera to bring in today's liveliest and most innovative directors and designers. Some of the productions on his watch have met that standard. Some have been curiously bland, or nothing special. This disappointing "Eugene Onegin" belongs among the roster of also-rans.

It replaces a 1997 production by the director Robert Carsen that was - visually arresting, with an almost abstract look, full of autumnal colors and a stage floor covered with fallen leaves. There was one problem: the set had no real walls or ceiling to help project the voices into the house. Still, that production was bolder than this muddled new one.

Ms Warner's staging, with sets by Tom Pye, is a coproduction with the English National Opera. It shifts the story's setting from the 1820s to roughly the late 1870s, contemporaneous with the years Tchaikovsky wrote the piece. Handsome costumes of the period are designed by Chloe Obolensky.

The opening scene is typically set, as per the stage directions, in a garden of the Larin estate in the country, where we meet the sisters Tatiana and Olga and their fretful mother, Madame Larina. In this production the action takes place in what looks like a sunroom that opens to a grove. Dingy curtains cover wall-size windows. Lots of work takes place on a country estate and this drab room looks like a real workplace, which is the problem: you get tired of it.

Olga (the strong mezzo-soprano Oksana Volkova) and Tatiana sing a wistful song together. The pensive Tatiana lives in a world of books. The vivacious Olga has a fiancÚ, the boyish Lenski, an aspiring poet (the excellent Polish tenor Piotr Beczala, in bright, ringing voice). Lenski arrives with his friend Onegin, who has inherited a neighboring estate from his uncle, though he has no interest in running it. Flirting with Tatiana amuses the superior Onegin. This is all it takes to unleash pent up fantasies of romantic love in Tatiana.

In the remarkable Letter Scene, Tatiana rashly stays up half the night writing a letter to Onegin declaring her love. Here, instead of taking place in the privacy of her bedroom, a writing table is set up in the drab sunroom from the previous scene, which makes no sense.

The dramatic tension of the performance in Act I seemed unfocused and tentative, which may be a result of the crisis that arose in this production. In early August Ms. Warner pulled out as director to undergo surgery. Her friend Ms. Shaw, the acclaimed actress and director, took over. Ms. Shaw has directed several opera productions, but never at the Met. Moreover, she was already directing a production of Britten's "Rape of Lucretia" for the Glyndeboume Festival's fall tour, which overlapped with "Eugene Onegin" at the Met. So, with the exception of one hectic day, Ms. Shaw has not been at the Met in more than two weeks, including Monday's opening night. Mr. Gelb said in an interview that Ms. Warner's staging was already blocked in detail and that Ms. Shaw left copious notes. But what about the last-minute changes that typically take place during dress rehearsals?

It seemed as if the cast, and even the usually exemplary Met Chorus, was feeling its way during the first act. By the second act, the focus and sweep picked up. Ms. Netrebko sang Tatiana to acclaim at the Vienna State Opera in April, so she knows what she thinks of this character and the music, and how to savor the words in her native Russian. During the opening scenes she conveys Tatiana's mousy demeanor. But the plummy richness and shimmering sensuality of her voice reveal inner feelings in this young woman waiting to be tapped by a man like Onegin. In the Letter Scene she went from hushed expressions of insecurity and longing to full-throated bursts of desire and soaring lyricism.

Mr. Beczala's muscular, youthful tenor voice is ideal for Lenski. He brings out the charming goofiness of this young man's love for the smitten Olga, until he turns hothead when he sees Onegin dancing seductively with her and challenges him to a fateful duel. Mr. Kwiecien's Onegin is a handsome and entitled man who takes all that for granted His voice, while dark and virile, did not on this night have as much innate vocal charisma as Ms. Netrebko's or Mr. Beczala's. Still Mr. Kwiecien's singing is volatile and exciting.

In a way, Mr. Gergiev directs the production from the pit. He is a musician who values spontaneity to the point of impetuosity. There were moments when the playing of the orchestra was a little scrambled. Still, Mr. Gergiev knows the Tchaikovsky style like few other conductors. At times he had the Met orchestra sounding like a Russian ensemble with reedy woodwinds, mellow brass and dark, throbbing strings.

After the performance the cast appeared on the outdoor balcony overlooking the plaza, where the outdoor audience remained to applaud. The protesters were gone. The issues they raised remain.

Production photos of Eugene Onegin by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

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