OPERA NEWS - Eugene Onegin
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In Review > North America

Eugene Onegin

Florida Grand Opera

In Review FGO Eugene Onegin lg 417
Graves and Kuznetsova in Eugene Onegin at FGO
© Chris Kakol

LIKE MANY OF Tchaikovsky’s principal female characters—Natalya in The Oprichnick, Lisa in The Queen of Spades, Maria in Mazeppa, even Joan of Arc in The Maid of OrleansEugene Onegin’s Tatiana personifies the heroine who decides to take risks with her life regardless of potential consequences. At Florida Grand Opera’s highly successful production of Eugene Onegin (seen Jan. 28), Dina Kuznetsova gave a striking performance of the young woman’s dreams and deceptions. She projected her versatile soprano and beautifully phrased singing with great agility and strength, delivering superb pianissimos. Her passion and anxiety during the letter scene were riveting, making us follow her every change of mood and intonation as if she truly were Tatiana, rather than a singing actress. In the final act, Kuznetsova’s Tatiana indicated neither triumph nor revenge but simply expressed her frustrated sensuality.

Franco Pomponi’s athletic, chilly baritone is ideal for the haughty Onegin. Dramatically, his interpretation was one-sided; the role calls for more vocal and theatrical subtlety, less noirceur and more insolence. Chad Johnson sang a natural Lenski; his confrontations with Onegin and a moving “Kuda Kuda,” in spite of some lack of power, were great musical moments. Denyce Graves was an impressive Filippyevna, but she lacked control of her strong mezzo-soprano, overpowering Tatiana in their scene together. Alex Soare was an effective Prince Gremin, although his bass lacked the full depth needed for the last section of his aria. Courtney Miller’s Olga, Robynne Redmon’s Larina and the very tasteful Monsieur Triquet by Dominick Corbacio completed one of the best casts to be heard at FGO in many seasons. Russian conductor Alexander Polyanichko led the well-balanced orchestra and chorus with precision and energy, avoiding sentimentality and exercising restraint in the more popular waltzes. 

Stage director Jeffrey Marc Buchman could not fully compensate for the lack of consistency in the traditional production imported from North Carolina Opera. Howard Tsvi Kaplan’s realistic costumes were in the style of the 1820s, but Peter Dean Beck’s set design featured an abstracted forest with movable trees and unconvincing architectural infill and details. The setting worked relatively well until the duel, but it was inadequate for the critical St. Petersburg scenes. Adding to the visual disorder, Helena Kuukka’s lighting, beautiful in the duel scene, failed to suggest either the natural light of the countryside in Act I or the artificiality of the ballroom in Act III.  —Jean-François Lejeune

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