Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin is my all-time favourite opera. Unlike some operas where there are just a few famous arias to look forward to, there are many arias and melodies to love in Eugene Onegin: Tatyana’s letter scene, and Lensky’s aria (Kuda, Kuda) are amongst the most dramatic and lyrical that I ever heard, despite Tchaikovsky’s desire for a smaller-scale opera than the grand Italian opera of the period.
Kasper Holten’s production of Eugene Onegin is the third I’ve seen at the Royal Opera House, London. In a good way, it is more reserved than the first production I saw in 2008 by Steven Pilmott/Elaine Kidd, which took liberties with the stage sets, and better than the 2010’s Bolshoi production, where supposedly shy Tatyana was neurotically pushing the table and chairs away. In the current production, I did like the (controversial) double Tatyana, recognisable by her red dress: one sings and the other acts, which allows the superb Krassimira Stoyanova/Tatyana to focus on her singing and also infuses more drama in the letter scene. It felt appropriately it was a different Tatyana who wrote the letter while she sees her younger self carried away by her feelings. A similar effect is used for Onegin in the duel scene with Lensky, sung by Pavol Breslik, who carried me away in his Kuda aria.
I was disappointed only by the costumes: all non-key characters, ie. the peasants, country people, guests at Tatyana’s name day and at the St Petersburg ball were dressed in black. The lack of subtitles in part 1 didn’t bother me on this occasion because I knew the story but would have otherwise. It runs until Wednesday 20 February; tickets have now sold out, but day tickets and returns may be available.