BWW Review: Netrebko and Mattei Spin Magic from Tchaikovsky's EUGENE ONEGIN at the Met
It's getting near the end of the season at the Met in New York and it's nice to see that they're still bringing out their "A" game. The splendidly cast run of Tchaikovsky's EUGENE ONEGIN found the company in fine fettle, with the wonderful Met orchestra under the sensitive baton of Robin Ticciati, music director at the Glyndebourne Festival and the Met's chorus, under Donald Palumbo.
Soprano Anna Netrebko turned in another one of her magic acts at the Met, on April 12, with a gorgeously sung performance of Tatiana in the Tchaikovsky work, which is based on one of Russia's most beloved novels. Oh sure, she didn't exactly come across as a teenager in Act I--few can--but, nonetheless, the emotions and commitment behind the role and its music had me hooked. Her "Letter Scene" was devastating, as was her reaction to being dismissed by Onegin, a blase, older man.
As the opera progressed, she increasingly became one with the role, until the last act, when she spurns the advances of Onegin, one-upping his mistreatment of her at the opera's start. Though she was a great Lady Macbeth and Leonora in IL TROVATORE at the Met, she's never more convincing than when she sings in her native tongue and this was proof of it; she was wonderful from her letter scene until she walked off stage, leaving the broken Onegin at the end.
This was baritone Peter Mattei's first performance of the season in the title role (Mariusz Kwiecien did earlier ones), though he's no stranger to it; he's done it here before, as well as in Paris, Vienna and Salzburg--and he didn't disappoint. He was one of the singers called into action by the continued ill health of Dmitri Hvorostovsky, but he was certainly no second fiddle. A fine actor as well as a thoughtful singer-and with a looming stage presence that adds more to the portrayal--you could understand why a budding young woman might immediately fall for him. At the end, Mattei seems so broken after Tatiana, now a grand dame, turns her back and walks away, that you can almost feel sorry for him--but only just.
In the smaller but key role of Prince Gremin, Stefan Kocan was just the right foil for Mattei's Onegin to realize how badly he underestimated what Tatiana could offer and his foolish rejection of her advances in the first act. Frequently cast as an ancient suitor whom Tatiana has apparently married simply for money, here he seems a good match for her-and, in return, has had his life enriched by his marriage, much to Onegin's regret. His aria "Lyubvi fse vozrasti pokorni" (all right, call it "Gremin's aria") was so heart-felt and truthful that one could feel Onegin wanting to kick himself for not having seen Tatiana's potential all those years before.