Staging is the star in Barrie Kosky’s take on Eugene Onegin. The production teems with life: Trees line the background and thick grass carpets the floor, spilling off the edge of the Festival Theatre stage; the large cast often fill the performance space, and the auditorium, with spirited Russian-folk tinged song. It’s a fittingly sumptuous backdrop for Komische Oper Berlin’s exuberant staging of Tchaikovsky’s opera.
What lifts the narrative is the energy of everyone involved in the production
Generating that level of dynamism in what is a fairly downbeat bit of storytelling is no mean feat. Eugene Onegin is a drab tale, with a drab set of protagonists led by the titular Onegin, a cut-price Pechorin, and not improved much with the less than inspiring Tatyana. The fact that Kosky has managed to create a memorable experience out of these raw materials is to his great credit.
So we begin in rural, provincial Russia where Tatyana’s hopeless dreamer falls for the less than charming Onegin. Lithunanian soprano Asmik Grigorian brings Tatyana to life with a superb vocal performance, and acting which matches. Similarly, Gunter Papendell brings no shortage of swagger to the leading male. His Onegin is not likeable but certainly infused with verve.
The divergent emotional trajectories of the characters are simple. She falls in love with him but is spurned; later, he falls in love with her and is spurned. What lifts the narrative is the energy of everyone involved in the production. The cast throw themselves into the performance, and the music, conducted by Ainars Rubikis, ebbs and flows beautifully.
It’s this energy which makes this production of Eugene Onegin a success. Komische Oper Berlin has crafted a dynamic and engaging production of the classic Russian opera, investing heavily in the spectacular and in doing so creating one of the more noteworthy versions of the opera. Under Kosky’s directorship, the company continue to generate some of the most exciting opera you’ll find on stage today.
Eugene Onegin marks the return of Komische Oper Berlin and its Artistic Director Barrie Kosky to the International Festival after their spectacular The Magic Flute in 2015.
Tchaikovsky’s best-loved opera features some of his most captivating music, its heartfelt melodies and choruses inspired by Russian folk music encircling its beating heart of raw emotion.
A romantic and a dreamer, Tatyana finds her quiet country existence is entirely dismantled by the arrival of the wealthy, charismatic Eugene Onegin. She confesses her undying devotion to him, but his cynical dismissal devastates her. Years later, it’s a very different Onegin — a lonely man traumatised by grief — who begs for Tatyana’s love. In seeking redemption, he is himself rejected: Tatyana is unwilling to abandon her husband for the man who so coldly spurned her.
Based on Alexander Pushkin’s classic verse novel, Tchaikovsky’s heart-breaking love story uses the author’s poetry to create lyrical scenes that contrast the austerities of country life with the excesses and opulence of the Russian imperial court.
Playful, radical and perceptive, Kosky is one of the most renowned directors working in opera today. Rising star Asmik Grigorian, whose performance as Strauss’s Salome at the Salzburg Festival recently met with universal adoration, takes the central role of Tatyana. Eugene Onegin is conducted by Latvian-born Ainārs Rubiķis, Komische Oper Berlin’s recently appointed Music Director.
Libretto by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, after Alexander Pushkin
Günter Papendell* Michael Nagy^ Eugene Onegin
Asmik Grigorian* Natalya Pavlova^ Tatyana
Karolina Gumos* Maria Fiselier^ Olga
Oleksiy Palchykov* Aleš Briscein^ Lensky
Liliana Nikiteanu Larina
Dimitry Ivashchenko Gremin
Margarita Nekrasova Filippyevna
Christoph Späth Triquet
Samuli Taskinen Zaretsky
*15 & 17 Aug ^16 Aug
Barrie Kosky Director
Ainārs Rubiķis Conductor
Rebecca Ringst Stage Designer
Klaus Bruns Costume Designer
Franck Evin Lighting Designer
David Cavelius Chorus Master
Simon Berger Dramaturgy
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