We caught the last run of the first cast’s performance of Eugene Onegin at the Metropolitan Opera Saturday evening. Happily, there were no political protests to disrupt the evening’s performance, and we were able to fully immerse ourselves in Deborah Warner’s new production.
This production replaces Robert Carson’s surreal but visually arresting production with the golden and red autumnal leaves. I love that set, having seen it live in Chicago and multiple times on my DVD copy starring Renee Fleming, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Ramon Vargas. I certainly missed it again on Saturday, especially during the letter scene, where Tatiana looked diminutive and lost in her bedclothes wandering around a chilly and cavernous hall. As it turned out, the staging in the first scene was reworked from its premier performance at the Royal Opera House. I preferred the original settings for the later scenes, which distracted less from the singers.
And what a stellar performance by the main cast. Everyone seemed in top form. Piotr Beczala’s Lenski was ardent, with a gorgeous bright sound, even if his tragic character was too impetuous. Loved the duel scene though – from the somber grey setting in the misty moors to the sad duet between the two former best friends. Mariusz Kwiecien’s Eugene Onegin was convincingly aloof and arrogant in the first act, and just devastating in the final act when then tables turned on him and Tatiana fended him off.
Speaking of Tatiana… Anna Netrebko was in her element. Perhaps not so much in the letter scene – which I blame on the staging, but her transformation from innocent school girl to dignified princess in the final scene was absolute, and heart-wrenching. I have to confess that I actually let out an audible sigh at the end when she pressed her lips firmly against the hopeful Onegin, only to draw away and flee. (Hehe, in an interview with OperaNews, Netrebko actually stated that “I’m sorry, at the end, I would fuck the guy!”)
Loved the performance, and Tchaikovsky’s lyricism so much that after the performance, I not only listened to the opera again on Spotify, but also pulled out my DVD copy and re-watched the entire thing. Hopefully, the Met decides to release a DVD of Netrebko’s performance, or that we’ll have many more opportunities to catch her sing this live again in the future.