- Carol Main
- 18 August 2019
Triumphant return to the International Festival from Komische Oper Berlin
Of one of only two fully staged operas at the EIF this year, the bets were on that Komische Oper Berlin's Eugene Onegin had to be a dead cert and, in Barrie Kosky's production first seen in the company's home city in 2016, indeed it was.
A tricky opera to stage, in that not much goes on plot-wise, it is all about human emotion with a focus on the infatuation and insecurities of young love coupled with how maturity can bring personal transition. Central to Tchaikovsky's opera is not so much its dilettante title character, tellingly played by German baritone Günter Papendell, but the young, introspective country girl, Tatyana, who becomes a princess through marriage to an older man. In the course of events, her innocent, fun-loving sister, Olga, delightfully captured by mezzo-soprano Karolina Gumos, loses her fiancé through a jealousy induced duel between him and Onegin. In the meantime, Tatyana has written a letter to Onegin, outpouring her feelings of fervent love, only to face rejection and, for her, a rather bleak name day celebration the next day.
Mainly set on a very natural looking grassy meadow, encircled by trees, the revolving central dias worked well as a moving party spot for the exemplary chorus, and the various bits of action. However, it is generally a circle, physically and psychologically, of which the vulnerable and reflective Tatyana, brilliantly sung and interpreted by Vilnius born soprano Asmik Grigorian, is not part. On the other hand, the much smaller circle, formed by a front stage beam, in which she all too often finds herself, is one in which she is trapped with the turmoil and anguish of her emotions. Under conductor Ainārs Rubiķis, soloists and ensemble are in top form, as is the orchestra which outstandingly echoed the opera's highly charged on-stage emotive pull.
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, run ended. Reviewed on Sat 17 Aug.