Tchaikovsky’s Yevgeny Onegin at Holland Park
A sodden summer’s evening provided an apt setting for this solemn production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece Yevgeny Onegin. The storyline – an adaptation of Alexander Pushkin’s epic verse novel – is one of soaring contrasts, wasted love, regrets and societal collisions. It follows its eponymous anti-hero Onegin through a series of bad decisions and dandyish excesses as he spurns the love of his life, Tatyana, and shoots his best friend Lensky dead in a jealous brawl.
Mark Stone and Anna Leese play Onegin and Tatyana respectively to suitably overwrought perfection, their voices locking together in rich harmony from their first encounter to their mournful parting finale. However, it is Peter Auty as the doomed poet Lensky who truly sparkles: his impassioned declaration of undying love to his fiancée Olga in the aria Kuda, Kuda Vï Udalilis forms one of the night’s highlights, drawing rapturous applause from the audience.
There is some stunning chorus work on show here: the Larin dance, for example, is fantastically energetic and well-choreographed, with the peasants’ gossipy, sniping vocal work and tight waltzes providing a lively respite from the story’s largely pessimistic overtones. Their ensemble work is suitably buoyant and charming; choreographer Denni Sayers deserves high praise for the use of puppetry and skilfully executed period dances.
The staging is fittingly desolate: a landscape of broken furniture, legless pianos and shelves of dusty romance novels all rise up out sparkling snow piles. The Chekhovian characters swirl about this bleak, ghost-ridden world with a dolorous abandon that adds to the poignancy and acutely felt sense of loss that encircles the whole production.
Yevgeny Onegin opens with a duet between the middle-aged Madame Larina (Anne Mason) and the nurse (Elizabeth Sikora). “God sends us routine in place of happiness and love” is its constant, tolling refrain. As the opera draws to a close and Onegin and Tatyana say their final, tearful goodbyes, the story’s overarching message becomes clear: love and passion will end, habit will step in, and life will move on.
A haunting and transcendent production of Tchaikovsky’s best-loved opera, Opera Holland Park’s Yevgeny Onegin will stay with you long after the curtain falls.
Yevgeny Onegin will be performed at Opera Holland Park on 17th, 19th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, 31st July and 2nd, 4th August at 7.30pm. For further information or to book visit Opera Holland Park’s website here.