|Eugene Onegin, Opera Holland Park, Seven magazine review|
|Life & Entertainment - Performing Arts|
|Written by news desk - telegraph.co.uk|
Daniel Slater’s new production for Holland Park updates Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin to revolutionary Russia – with impressive results
Daniel Slater’s new staging of Eugene Onegin has brutalised – with some insight – Tchaikovsky’s hymn to failed love, missed opportunities and the abrupt transition from adolescence to adulthood by placing it on the cusp of the Russian Revolution.
The Larin Estate peasants are a sullen, resentful bunch rather than salt-of-the-earth forelock tuggers; Leslie Travers’s set, an expressionist jumble of a once-grand interior, flags up the ruination of the old order. The Polonaise is a celebration of the new proletariat, and Prince Gremin, recast as a Red Army general, is Communist rather than imperialist aristocracy, complete with Tatyana as a trophy wife.
However, having laid waste to Pushkin’s nostalgic reverie, Slater had problems justifying the music’s intense lyricism. The main, rather irritating, one was Onegin and Tatyana adopting parallel, time-suspending roles as observers reliving their story, signalled by their putting on overcoats – the vision of a nightie-clad, letter-bearing chorus of Tatyana clones reproaching the heartbreaker Onegins of this world evoked unwelcome comparisons with the ghostly Willis in Giselle.
Set against that, though, was Slater’s canny direction of Lensky, the hopelessly obsolescent romantic artist, so out of touch with Russia’s brave new world that his death is inevitable. Onegin’s pistol may have fired the bullet, but circumstances pulled the trigger.
Slater’s cast was one of OHP’s best. Mark Stone’s Onegin was particularly effective, a young man with just enough self-possession to make his aloofness credible, with Stone’s graceful, light baritone aspiring to weight and darkness.
Anna Leese’s rich, subtle soprano worked wonders with Tatyana’s music. Her teenage poutings rather undermined the impact of her well-sung letter scene, but her transition to compromised adulthood was intelligently handled, making complete sense of the often-cursory last scene.
Peter Auty fans will be thrilled with his Lensky, his generous, ardent singing completely in thrall to the unkind, airhead Olga, cleverly played by Hannah Pedley. Alexander Polianichko summoned up an orchestral sound of pleasing fullness, and he conducted with that beguiling, very Russian mix of dalliance and attack.