Onegins at the Met Opera
I think the best way to explain the meaning of today’s bubble is just to say «О, как мне тяжело! Опять Онегин…» (rus) (How this torments me! Again, Onegin…). Recently, I’ve watched Met HD new production of «Eugene Onegin» in my local cinema theatre. In general, I have to say I like it. I was touched by acting and singing. And it gave me an idea to compare it with the previous Met production of «Onegin» in 2007 which I love and adore and to find out what is better maybe:). So it’s kind of a battle between two director’s points of view and two casts of great singers. Let’s do this!!!
First of all, staging. In 2007 the director is Robert Carson. He sets the action in Pushkin’s times (the 20-30s of the 19th century) and puts it as a minimalistic production: all the set is just autumn leaves, a little number of chairs or one bed on the stage. Doing that he focuses all the public’s attention on the singers and the story they tell. I like this approach a lot cause in opera it’s all about the plot, characters and music. I consider that it should always be highlighted no matter what a production is staged. This little amount of things on the stage just helps the action to go its way not disturbing the audience. This simplicity of the set is genius, I think. The autumn leaves accent on the emotional state of characters: for example, at the beginning they symbolize the sweet memory that still has left in Onegin’s life. Just marvelous!!!
The light design is spectacular!!! I especially love the sun rising in the duel scene and the night sky in the letter scene. The light is a great moodsetter (let’s say so:)) and here it’s done perfectly!
Costumes are a very important part of any production. In this case they are rather good but I wouldn’t say they are special or very interesting. The countryside outfits are acceptable but for the Act 3 I’d like to see more gorgeous gowns for ladies and Tatyana’s dress could be more chic at the end of the opera.
In 2013 the director is Deborah Warner. And it is the co-production with the English National opera. Warner chooses Tchaikovsky’s times for her production (the end of the 19th century). The whole atmosphere is very cosy and rural. I should admit that the countryside life is well shown: simple clothes, a way of life (Tatyana’s birthday party is a good demonstration). The other sets are also very Russian but in a good way (no bears or vodka or other trite stuff that foreign directors like to add!). The idea of setting the final scene outside is also very interesting and possible (though in the novel it’s at Tatyana’s house).
But I don’t get several moments like the dance of the peasant girl in Act 1 (Why is the modern dance in the countryside? What is it about?) and rifles in the duel scene (It’s like they go hunting together but instead of shooting hares Onegin kills his friend. What is that? Why don’t they like usual pistols?).
Two kisses are also a controversial thing! I’ve read many reviews on this production and opinions differ. I can get the kiss in the final duet but it’s seems to me that the kiss in the first act is unnecessary. According to Onegin’s words he is not as good as she is and he loves her as a brother or maybe a little more. Saying so, he intends to put out the fire of love in Tatyana’s heart in a gentle way but not the opposite. And this kiss, I guess, doesn’t help a lot in such a situation.
The light decisions are good but in some scenes they are too dark that singers’ faces are hard to see (in the letter and the duel scenes). At this point I am partly satisfied.
But costumes are amazing! Tatyana’s wardrobe changes from the simple dress with ruches to the posh red velvet outfit. This move shows precisely her new social position and helps to understand Onegin’s feelings about it.
Now, the casts.
The 2007 cast includes Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Onegin), Renee Fleming (Tatyana), Ramon Vargas (Lenski), Elena Zaremba (Olga) and others. These are very good singers and their performance tells the whole story as it is in Pushkin’s masterpiece which is very valuable for me (as a Russian girl:)). I’m very impressed that Renee and Ramon could manage to learn their parts by heart not learning Russian! For me, it sounds impossible!!! But sometimes I don’t understand words and it distracts me a little.
Renee’s Tatyana maybe a little less simple that it should be. From the beginning of the opera she is more like a duchess than like a countryside girl. But at the same time I see her nobility and romanticism in every gesture which can be found in Tatyana’s character. That’s why the changes that happen to her later are not so noticeable.
Dmitri’s Onegin is perfect for me! He plays a bored, sometimes arrogant person which Onegin is. I like his begging at the end, how he tries to catch maybe the only opportunity of his happiness. At this moment, however, he saves his dignity and pride. Dmitri is a very good actor. Every time he is inside his character’s skin which always gets him a lot of applause during the curtain call.
Lenski is very kind and romantic person. In Ramon’s interpretation I miss the romantic side of the character. He is gentle to Olga but in my opinion his look at her could be more loving. But he plays his hero with honesty and justice as it should be.
Olga by Elena Zaremba is very playful, young and reckless, exactly how I imagine her.
In 2013 the cast includes Mariusz Kwiecien (Onegin), Anna Netrebko (Tatyana), Piotr Beczala (Lenski), Oksana Volkova (Olga). These are singers of a new generation but also very experienced. The first three persons have worked together a lot («Lucia di Lammermoor» in 2009, for example), the interaction between them is very good.
Onegin by Mariusz is also bored and arrogant but he differs from Dmitri’s. In the final scene he is so pitiful and desperate about his life. And for me it looks more like she is really attractive for him only with her new title not because of love or whatever. In a whole, I think Mariusz did the best that he could but in my opinion this role is not suitable for him either vocally or in an acting way. His type of baritone is very light and better for belcanto roles. Here the deep baritone of Dmitri sounds better and his appearance has a stronger effect than Mariusz’. Though I love Mariusz, especially his Dr Malatesta or Enrico in Donizetti’s operas. These are definitely his roles, he plays them great!
Anna Netrebko is well-known for playing strong women and this was very interesting to see how she would manage to play such a shy girl. She did a fantastic job! I adore her for a very long time and her every performance is impressive but….this one is one of her GREATEST!!! Anna demonstrates here all her acting abilities, I think. Every gesture and look is full of emotions either she is a countryside girl or she is a wife of prince Gremin. I felt her energy through the cinema screen, she is amazing in this role…maybe because she is from Russia:).
Piotr Beczala has definitely stolen the show! He is an ideal Lenski, a sweet, kind, romantic poet who is in love with cheerful Olga. Piotr acts very good and in this production I feel so sorry for him though while I was reading the novel I always thought it was stupid of him to make such a big deal of Olga’s dance with Onegin. So sad that he dies so young!(((. One of the best scenes is the conflict between him and his friend on Tatyana’s party! Oh!!! Music is fantastic and very dramatic! Love it!!! And, of course, aria «Kuda, kuda…» is a pearl of this opera and the Polish tenor sings it greatly!
Oksana Volkova plays and sings her part very good. She and Piotr have sung together in Met’s «Rigoletto». They felt each other on the stage which helped them to make a very truthful couple.
To sum up, the production 2007 is the best of these two but the cast is stronger in 2013 with one exception of Mariusz Kwiecien (Sorry, again((). Dmitri’s Onegin is unbeatable for me!!!
And when I watched the previous «Eugene Onegin» I watched an opera and «Onegin» of this year was felt for me more like a dramatic play rather than an opera! But anyway these two versions of this masterpiece are worth seeing and it’s only up to you to decide what is better!