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Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Best Romances are Tragic... Eugene Onegin presented by Edmonton Opera at the Jubilee

Yesterday I took in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin presented by Edmonton Opera at the Jubilee Auditorium.  It was beautiful to watch and hear. The production captured all the expectations of a Russian story.  I am currently reading Anna Karenina and in watching this opera I felt transported.  Everything looked and sounded and felt just right.  The costumes are delightful.  The opera moves from the rustic country outdoors, to a country ball and then finally to a more formal ball.  As it progresses, the costumes get more and more opulent, reminding us where we are and who these people are. I must comment on the Lighting by Designer Geoff George. It is some of the best lighting I have ever seen and I see a lot of theatre.  Act II, Scene 2 in the woods is absolutely breath-taking.  I actually gasped out the words "how gorgeous" at one point. The sets are simple but at the same time lush and atmospheric.  Kudos to the cast for managing the rake of the deck so well.  I hope they know how beautiful it looks, giving the stage the appearance of being even bigger than it already is. 

I really appreciated the incorporating of the Shumka dancers to the piece - the chorus dances too, but Director Tom Diamond and Choreographer Brian Webb have used the skills appropriately to build the sequences so that the moments of dance and celebration contrast the impending tragedy of the story arc.  Diamond's direction suited the piece well.  There is a simplicity and minimalism to some scenes that heightened the emotions and holding those against those moments where the stage is full seemed to underscore the doomed trajectory.  

The tragic love story would not be so wonderfully told if it weren't for the outstanding performances by Aleksey Bogdanov as Onegin and Dina Kuznetsova as Tatiana.  A strong and dashing figure onstage, I was reminded of Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, but this is no Austen novel.  This is a Russian love story where no one gets a happy ending.  Bogdanov has a rich full voice that makes you understand why Tatiana loves him and Olga loves to flirt with him.  He plays his moments of bravado just as well as and as convincingly as those of sorrow and loss.  Kuznetsova is a performer with great depth and layers.  She  makes her transformation from shyness to passion to sadness with her whole being.  Even when she just sits, listening to Triquet (the french fop played with great humour by James McLennan),  her emotions are raw and revealed.  Her voice is gorgeous - I could listen to her sing all night long.  Andrej Dunnaev as Lenski and Maria Kateava as Olga each bring excellent characterization to their roles.  She is bright and flirtatious and charming and his anger is palpable. A smart choice was made to cast Russian singers - they are all so wonderfully connected to their text.  It is not difficult to ascertain the intrinsic emotions of any of the scenes. 
Like everything Russian, it has a feeling of being epic, even though it is just a story of 4 people who lose at love and friendship where they might have won everything if they had made different choices.  Perhaps that is why it works so well as an opera. 

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