Tchaikovsky : Eugene Onegin

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Eugene Onegin
WORKS: Eugene Onegin
PERFORMER: Simon Keenlyside, Krassimira Stoyanova, Pavol Breslik, Peter Rose; Royal Opera House/Robin Ticciati; dir. Kasper Holten
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: OA 1120 D; Blu-ray: OA BD7133 D


These two DVDs of polarised productions encapsulate the heaven and hell of reviewing. Heaven is the chance to confim that what I first felt about Kasper Holten’s deeply human Royal Opera Eugene Onegin, with its layered and passionate focus on a messed-up love between confused young man and determined girl. Hell was seeing Mariusz Trelin´ski’s opening image of an older Onegin as stout vampire (actor and Valencia/Warsaw production choreographer Emil Wesoowski) and anticipating two more hours of the same.

‘Characters’ in this skilfully but hideously lit and designed travesty of Pushkin and Tchaikovsky are either zombies copied from a classic Robert Wilson vision – its absurdity peaking in the first ball’s wolf masks and camp ballet – or doomed to flail in clashing naturalism. A fine central couple is betrayed. Kristine Opolais’s  physical grace and fine lyric-dramatic soprano would elsewhere embody the young and older Tatyanas; baritone Artur Rucin´ski phrases the Act I arioso better than anyone since Dmitri Hvorostovsky. But Trelin´ski renders his Onegin a mere cold demon until the last act. Conductor Omer Meir Wellber’s sometimes cripplingly slow tempos indulge Dmitry Korchak’s show-offy tenorishness. The Valencia orchestra is poor, the chorus wretched and there’s a dead spot downstage left, which kills the voices.


Every key point which crashes here deeply moved me in Holten’s production. Holten’s principals break the heart: Krassimira Stoyanova’s aching, ringing Tatyana embraces her youthful alter ego at the core of the Letter Scene; baritone Simon Keenlyside’s ‘old’ Onegin wills tenor Pavol Breslik’s handsome Lensky not to die. Mezzo Elena Maximova’s Olga and bass Peter Rose’s Gremin are nuanced characters, not the usual ciphers; Robin Ticciati mirrors the production’s palpitations in flexible conducting. The little introductory documentaries are excellent, and though you may not want Holten’s commentary above the music, all
he says makes sense. Up there with more outlandish concepts from Salzburg and Moscow, this is warmer than both. David Nice