BWW Reviews: Opera Theatre of St. Louis Continues Season with Strong Production of EUGENE ONEGIN


While Alexander Pushkin's original verse novel, Eugene Onegin, had its protagonist at the center of attention, composer Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky and writer Konstantin Shilovsky's operatic adaptation (with an English translation by David Lloyd-Jones) instead focuses on Tatiana, the woman whose heart is broken by Onegin when he rejects her. This fundamental change in perspective actually makes for a more tragic and emotional experience, and coming from Tatiana's point of view, works perfectly for the world of opera. The Opera Theatre of St. Louis is presenting a lush and dramatic production of Eugene Onegin as part of their season now playing at the Loretto-Hilton.

When Eugene Onegin inherits an Uncle's estate, his friend Lensky brings him to the home of some of his new neighbors, and he meets the charmingly beautiful, but painfully shy Tatiana. She's instantly smitten, and after he leaves she writes him an impassioned letter that expresses her feelings. But, he's not ready to settle down, and he spurns her interests and moves on. Tatiana eventually marries another man, but her love for Onegin still burns within. Later, Onegin is challenged to a duel by Lensky when he casually flirts with Tatiana's sister, and Lensky's beloved, Olga at a party. After the ensuing tragedy, Onegin leaves his estate. When they finally do meet again, Tatiana is faced with having to choose between the man she's married to, and the man she still loves.

Dina Kuznetsova is wonderful as Tatiana, and this lovely score affords her soaring soprano voice the opportunity for several powerful and memorable moments. She also effectively conveys both the excitement of being in love for the first time, and the pain of having your heart broken just as quickly. Christopher Magiera manages to capture the proper attitude for Onegin, but there were times that he needed to project more, with his voice sometimes overpowered by the orchestra. Sean Panikkar is simply terrific as the exuberant and lovestruck Lensky, offering up his selections with a crystalline clarity that made the projected subtitles superfluous. Lindsay Ammann is also strong as Tatiana's playful sister Olga.

Additional support is provided by Susan Shafer, Jeffrey Hill, Adrian Rosas, Andrew Drost, Aubrey Allicock, Nick Fitzer and Oren Gradus.

Director Kevin Newbury guides the action with a steady hand, and his assured work pays off with completely focused performances. David Agler conducts the orchestral ensemble, producing a powerful and dynamic sound that does justice to Tchaikovsky's score. Sean Curran's choreography also livens up the atmosphere with spirited work all around. Allen Moyer's set is a marvel of sliding wooden panels that open to reveal or close to conceal, allowing for a number of arresting changes in the scenic design, and Christopher Akerlind's lighting illuminates it in intriguing ways. Martin Pakledinaz's costumes and Tom Watson's wigs fit the period and locale.

The Opera Theatre of St. Louis has put together another fine presentation with the dark romance of Eugene Onegin. Check their online calendar for future performance dates.

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From This Author Chris Gibson

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