Eugene Onegin: Last Show of the Lyric Season

I didn’t see this performance by Fleming and Hvorostovsky (although, it’s the same exact set!), but wanted to bookmark this.

From the Chicago Tribune, since the reporter was reviewing the exact same performance:

New baritone keeps ‘Onegin’ bubbling
By John von Rhein | Tribune critic
March 20, 2008

The performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” at Lyric Opera of Chicago on Monday night was a Slavic stew to which ever greater heat was applied until it was bubbling furiously by the end of the performance.

Much of that vocal and dramatic intensity came from the pairing of Mariusz Kwiecien in the title role and Dina Kuznetsova as Tatyana, whom Onegin initially spurns but who turns the tables on him in the final scene. Both singers drew sustained applause and rightly so, because they are the real thing.

Kwiecien’s first Lyric Onegin marked the acclaimed young Polish baritone’s return to the roster after an absence of five seasons. He had big shoes to fill, taking up the signature role of Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who announced last year he would take early leave of the Robert Carsen production to be with his family in Europe.

Kwiecien and Hvorostovsky are among the finest Onegins today; neither is superior to the other, just different. Kwiecien is shorter, younger and more slender of build than the silver-maned Siberian. Hvorostovsky cuts an uncommonly handsome figure, carries himself elegantly and brings an intriguing touch of preening narcissism to the man of the world whose world finally collapses around him.

Kwiecien’s firm and attractive lyric baritone may not command the easy, rolling amplitude of his colleague. But he can turn on the power when needed, particularly in the last scene, in which Onegin confronted his dormant feelings for Tatyana. The passion generated by the romantic leads could have lit up the Loop for a month.

Onegin clung to Tatyana while she, realizing she still loved him but must remain faithful to her husband, struggled to free herself from his desperate embrace. Hot stuff indeed.

Onegin’s Act 1 aria was tenderly sung, as if he were chiding his young sister for her girlish impulsiveness — a marked contrast with Hvorostovsky’s callous rejection of Tatyana’s naive affection.

Once again, Kuznetsova delivered a Letter Scene at once luminous and vibrantly dramatic. Tenor Frank Lopardo was announced as singing through a cold, but his ardently sung Lensky gave scant evidence of it.

Mezzo Catherine Wyn-Rogers brought the right vocal gravity to Tatyana’s nurse, while the roles of Olga (Nino Surguladze), Gremin (Vitalij Kowaljow) and Madame Larina (Marie Plette) remained as impressively sung as before. Andrew Davis conducted.

This review barely glanced at the other stars of the night – Frank Lopardo’s Lensky was indeed incredibly moving; if he sounds like that sick, I wonder how he’d sound well. God. Kwiecien might have played the title role, but I think the male star of the night belonged to Lensky, as attested by the enthusiastic yells and cheers of bravo when he took to the stage at the end.

It was also a real treat to listen to Dina Kuznetsova again (she sang Juliet at last season’s Romeo and Juliet). Her voice was simply exquisite, particularly in the last love duet with Eugene Onegin. We sat in such rapt silence during the pregnant pause right before she confessed that she still loved him, so breathlessly awaiting her utterance of those three words, that there was a palpable sigh of pleasure from the audience when she sang diminuendo, her voice soft but crystal clear.

I think too, that Michael Levine’s set designs were my favorite this season. He employed the same type of minimalistic setting as last season’s Iphigenie en Tauride, using igenious play with lighting to create most of the moods and poetic effects on the vast, largely empty stage. Less indeed says more, as illustrated brilliantly in Levine’s set, especially when contrasted with Kevin Knight’s set on Die Frau ohne Schatten. But I guess it’s really objective, since I found that latter set design a little too affected and too busy what with the neon lighted bird cage and giant upside down umbrellas and hands that doubled as boats, distracting from the singing, while Kyrie said she liked the mystical effect of it all.

But yes, I greatly enjoyed the opera; it’s my second favorite at the Lyric this season (not including Carmen, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth from the Met), right after Julius Caesar I reckon.

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