Opera: Eugene Onegin


Let's pass over the unforgivably drab scenery and costumes, and concentrate on the - wonderful - plusses of this first revival of Kasper Holten's production of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. Holten's central conceit - having the story performed as a flashback, with alter egos of both Tatyana and Onegin watching on - has been badly received generally. For me, it is a flash of inspiration, adding new depth and levels of psychology to a simple, powerful tale. This was one of the most gripping and thought-provoking Eugene Onegins I have ever seen. The letter scene was one of the most riveting and moving scenes I have ever witnessed in the theatre, as the older Tatyana looks on at her impetuous younger self.

But whatever one thinks of the production, musically this is stellar. Australian soprano Nicole Car is mesmerising as Tatyana - a brilliant actress with a voice that melts. And Michael Fabiano's house debut as Lensky more than matches the hopes that this young tenor is the man for the future.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky's return to the stage after treatment for a brain tumour was emotional not simply because he is such a favourite, but because he remains the pre-eminent Russian baritone of our time.

But the real honours go to Semyon Bychkov in the pit. Is there a finer conductor alive? The ROH orchestra is already superb, but when he is in charge it sounds like a blend of the VPO and the Concertgebouw.

His reading of the score is pitch perfect. Tempi, rubato, emotion, all are flawless.

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