Saturday, my wife and I made our second voyage to Manhattan in less than two weeks, this time to see the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, or more precisely, to see Anna Netrebko perform as Tatiana in Eugene Onegin. Ms. Netrebko has been one of my favorite sopranos since I first developed an interest in opera about six years ago. She has a beautiful voice, is a major talent, and is a consummate professional. She has worked hard to achieve her diva status and it is very well deserved. She is one of only a handful of opera stars whose presence ensures a good audience turnout. So, it was with a good deal of excitement last Saturday night that my wife and I went to hear her sing. We were not disappointed in either her performance or the opera; both were outstanding.
Eugene Onegin is the most successful of Tchaikovsky’s operas in the United States. It is, of course, sung in Russian. Anna Netrebko is a native Russian, making her and this opera a perfect match; it is an iconic performance. The librettist is Konstantin Shilovsky and the libretto is based on the novel of the same name by Alexander Pushkin, who wrote it in verse. The story revolves around a letter written by a young country girl to a more sophisticated bachelor neighbor declaring her love for him. His response and the aftermath of its effects on their lives constitute the tale. No spoilers here except to report that, not unsurprisingly for a Pushkin tale, it is a story with both heart and painful realities.
There is nothing painful about the music however. It is sweeping and grand with beautiful melodies, and a lead theme that you will leave the opera house humming, which Tchaikovsky weaves into the music throughout the opera. Originally scheduled British conductor, Robin Ticciati, was ill and was replaced by staff conductor Joel Revzen. No problem from my stand point; I thought the orchestra played quite well and the music was a highlight of the performance.
The staging was very effective with a large country house and an outdoor setting containing the action in the early part of the drama and an aristocratic ball in St. Petersburg in the latter. At the first intermission, my wife who was not aware of Anna Netrebko’s reputation told me that when she sang, it was like the other singers were singing from farther back, that she sounded exactly like she’d expect an opera star to sing. Ms. Netrebko certainly commands the stage, but each of the principal singers in the drama were excellent. Baritone Peter Mattei, who played Onegin, stood out in a talented group. I thought the strength and beauty of his voice were a good match for Netrebko. The scenery, the costumes, the dance numbers, and the acting all worked to make it believable that this story occurred at its time in Russia, early nineteenth century.
I simply have no substantial criticisms to make of this Eugene Onegin production by the Met Opera. I think this is a wonderful opera and stars a great soprano in Anna Netrebko. In my view, she owns this role and all singers who attempt it after her will be compared to her. Of course, it is only the second time I have seen Eugene Onegin. According to my rule of three, noted in my previous blog report, on my next viewing I will be more critical (smiley face). Regardless, any opportunity to see Anna Netrebko should be seized upon.
You can see this production live in HD with Anna Netrebko this coming Saturday, April 22 at select theaters around the country. Click on this link to track down the one nearest to you
The Fan Experience: Once again my expectations fell victim to not perusing the cast list carefully enough. I had thought Mariusz Kwiecien was playing the role of Onegin. I have seen Mr. Kweicien in a couple of videos of operas and was looking forward to seeing him in person. However, the casting had switched the performance before the one I saw to have Peter Mattei in that role. This was planned all along, not a last-minute substitution. Fortunately, Mr. Mattei was not a disappointment, and I was thrilled to have seen and heard him. I can’t emphasize too strongly, though, to you and myself to always check the cast listings for operas you want to see to determine if there are planned cast changes during the run of the opera.