While some aspersions have been cast on the English National Opera sets used for this production, we found them quite serviceable and appropriate to the snowy mood that the original stage director, Deborah Warren, was attempting to convey.Share
Updating the action of the opera slightly to the late 1800s, this production, along with the crisp, clean, elegant lines of Chloe Obolensky’s period costuming, replicated the stiff, wintry, formal Russian society of the time that, like the English Victorians, was capable of concealing great passion beneath a politically correct exterior.
As for the opera itself, “Eugene Onegin,” based on Alexander Pushkin’s eponymous verse novel, is regarded by many as Tchaikovsky’s greatest opera. With its 2013 cast, the Met clearly found an ensemble that’s as capable of confirming this judgment as any.
Pushkin’s tale exemplifies the age-old legend of the Wheel of Fortune that spins, in this case, in two different directions for the opera’s principal characters. Onegin (Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecien), Pushkin’s brooding anti-hero, is a dashingly handsome, intelligent minor member of the landed aristocracy. He is also quite the nihilist, however, regarding his fellow men and women, with rare exceptions, as not generally worthy of cultivation. He treats women in particular as objects of contempt, although he’s not beneath pursuing them whenever it suits the moment.