Eugene Onegin: His Callousness Leads Him to Regret
It is silent on this Saturday night in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver. People shift around on their chairs, waiting eagerly for the show to begin. Finally the lights go out, the audience takes a deep breath and the orchestra begins to play. The first calm sounds of the overture breeze through the air. Then the curtain rises for the opening night of Tchaikovsky´s opera “Eugene Onegin” which at the same time opens the Vancouver Opera season 2008-2009.
We are witnesses of a story that is set in early 19th-century Russia. Tatyana, a shy young country woman, falls in love for the first time in her life when she meets Eugene Onegin, an elegant but cynical aristocrat from St. Petersburg. Onegin, a friend of her sister´s suitor Lensky, prompts feelings in Tatyana that she didn´t know before. In an impassioned letter she confesses her love, but when they finally meet, Onegin rejects Tatyana, telling her that he was not made for marriage. His callousness leads him into bitterness.
On Tatyana´s name day party he dances with Tatyana´s sister Olga in order to make Lensky jealous who invited him to the party. This imprudent flirt draws him into a fatal duel with Lensky who finally dies. Startled by his friend's death, Onegin disappears. Years later he returns to St. Petersburg to attend a ball at the palace of his cousin, Prince Gremin, who is now married to Tatyana. After meeting her again, Onegin realizes that he is in love with her, but it is to late. This time it is she who rejects him. Although Tatyana confesses still to be in love, she remains truthful to her husband, and leaves Onegin in anguish and regret.
Based on a novel by Aleksandr Pushkin, a piece of classic Russian literature, the opera Eugene Onegin highlights the story´s two contrasting worlds in Czarist Russia. On one hand there is the rural world of farms in the country, expressed by dusty country dances and on the other side the glittering city life in St. Petersburg. The stage setting underlines this antagonism and charms the audience with beautiful scenery. When Tatyana meets Onegin for the first time, we find them in a pastoral peaceful garden, whereas later the stage transforms to a magnificent palace to show the luxury of the aristocrats lives.
Tchaikovsky´s music opens the chance to dream away, to dip into another fascinating world. But a world not quite unequal as our everyday life where people make mistakes, like Onegin when he rejects Tatyanas love in order to avoid being hurt and regrets it his entire life.
This character-driven story becomes alive because of wonderful music, a strong performance on stage and not least because of great voices. Soprano Rhoslyn Jones makes her company debut with Vancouver Opera as Tatyana, accompanied by baritone Brett Polegato as Eugene Onegin, what in a nutshell leads to an marvelous theatre night.
Interested parties should hurry up because the opera will be performed only two more times, this Thursday, November 27 and next Saturday, November 29. The opera is presented in Russian with English translations above the stage.
Photo above of Brett Polegato and Rhosilyn Jones as Onegin and Tatyana