I know I’ve seen Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin before, in fact, I know I’ve seen it with Mirela Freni as Tatiana, but I felt last night that this was the first time. Perhaps it was sitting in the “stalls circle,” the raised area that surrounds the floor of the Royal Opera House, which creates an unusual feeling of intimacy with the players and orchestra.
Perhaps it was the beautiful conducting of Philippe Jordan, the most romantic and gorgeous playing of this piece that I’ve heard. This is the first time I have thought that an opera by Tchaikovsky was truly by the same composer as his other works.
Perhaps it was the simple, architectural stage setting that clarified the action so well.
Perhaps it was our guys, Rolando and Dmitri. I must confess I can’t resist either one of them. Rolando Villazon is the reason this opera is sold out, as is just about everything he does these days. I understand that he was ill on Monday, but my luck held. My earlier conclusion that he is a lyric tenor, even a somewhat light lyric tenor, held here. One loves him for his dark tone, passionate intensity and musicality. He’s really quite wonderful to see, and died fabulously. Let’s hope he doesn’t hurt anything falling down like that.
I would call Dmitri Hvorostovsky a lyric baritone, with a beautiful tone and complete comfort in Russian repertoire. He began stiffly. Was this intentional? Onegin tells Lensky that he finds Tatiana beautiful, but when she falls wildly for him we are somewhat puzzled. He hasn’t exactly made that much of an impression on us. Perhaps the moment was just right for her.
Perhaps it was the staging which worked particularly well. Perhaps it was the charming couplet in honor of Tatiana’s name day, sung by Ryland Davies.
It wasn’t Amanda Roocroft, who looked good but wasn’t up to Tatiana. She was dramatically but not vocally effective.
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