San Francisco Opera Nov. 19, 1997 KDB Nov. 23, 1997
The San Francisco Opera's production of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" comes from The Kirov Opera in St. Petersburg and is directed and conducted by Yuri Temirkanov. It's a richly beautiful staging set in the 1820's with authentic costumes. It opens happily enough in the garden of the Larina's. The house is in the background. There are two benches, a planter with flowers, and hanging vines, like wisteria almost enclose the stage on top. We meet the lightly, impetuous Olga, and the deeply dreamy Tatyana, along with Lensky and Onegin. As night falls, the lights come on in the house, and all go inside. Tatyana's room is a simple accessory, with the dresser, a tall window at the rear, and the writing table with a candle. Prokina's Tatyana dominates the scene with fiery passion as she pours her heart out in the love letter to Onegin. When we return to another point in the garden, we have the first signs of the trouble to come with a tree on the left stretching it's bare branches over the stage, under the wisteria against a backdrop of a lake with rolling hills. Onegin tells Tatyana he can only love her as a brother. In the second Act, at the ball in Madam Larina's house, the overhanging wisteria, which was once lush and green has turned to barren tendrils of branches that come together at the chandelier to bridge the action on the stage. Lensky simmers on one end of the stage, while Onegin and Olga flirt on the other. Monsieur Triquet sings to Tatyana in the middle. As Lensky challenges Onegin to a duel, the party goers gasp in horror. The next morning on the bank of the stream against a stark gray sky with a streak of blood red, Lensky walks among the bare trees. He senses his death as he sings of his love for Olga. All is desolate, with a broken tree in the foreground. Both he and Onegin want to make up and be friends, but they are bound by the tradition of the duel, and Onegin rushes to grab his friend who dies in his arms. Act 3 takes place in the lavish ballroom in St. Petersburg. Erik Halfvarson's Prince Gremin is stately dignity as he tells Onegin of his happiness since winning the love of his beautiful wife, Tatyana. In the Gremin's mansion Onegin pleads with her to leave her husband for him in the searing final duet. Tchaikovsky's wish list for the staging of "Eugene Onegin" called for very steady singers who will act simply but well. The action called for the human element over the luxurious, and this San Francisco/Kirov Opera production is elegant passion brought to a fever pitch. Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" continues at the newly refurbished War Memorial Opera House with 8 p.m. performances November 25 and 28, and December 2 and 5. There will be matinees at noon November 29 and 2 p.m. Sunday December 7 at The San Francisco Opera.

 

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Updated on Wednesday, February 25, 1998 by Paul Berenson