Cher Public

Bear in mind

Before there was a Stefan Herheim Boheme (which I reviewed a couple of weeks back for this site), there was a Herheim Eugene Onegin, recorded in June 2011 at De Nederlanse Opera and released on DVD and Blu-ray by Opus Arte.  As the Boheme might be described as “Rodolfo’s Dream”, this Onegin is “Onegin’s Flashback.”  Herheim weaves his directorial magic by setting the opera in three different “time zones”—the here and now, the period of the opera’s composition, and the historical context of the Pushkin verse novel on which it is based.

Tchaikovsky’s lushly romantic opera (1881 revised version) follows the story of the naïve Tatyana who writes a love letter to Onegin, only to be rebuffed and lectured about being so careless with her feelings.  Onegin wanders for eight years, searching for happiness and fulfillment, then, when he encounters the regal Tatyana who has become the wife of Prince Gremin, desperately tries to win her to no avail.  

In this production, we begin in an elegant Moscow hotel in today’s times with gowned and tuxedoed guests emerging from an elevator and moving to to the entrance doors to an elegant ball given by Prince Gremin.  Onegin suddenly emerges, having returned from his wanderings.  He sees the red-gowned Tatyana on the arm of her Prince, and begins to wonder how this all began; we are then transported to the first scene of the opera with Madame Larin and Filipyevna talking about life in “the good old days.” 

From this time on, Onegin rarely leaves the stage.  He observes all the past events of his cold and callous youth, frequently enters into the action as if a participant, and tries to put together the story of his life through Herheim’s fascinating visual world.

The director also makes the production a comment on the very essence of the Russian character.  In the name day party scene, a Russian star hangs above the scene, then it burns itself away; and there appears the Russian bear, life-size and dancing, always reflecting the emotional world of the opera.  He remains a force in the piece, especially in the most remarkable part of the production:  the Ball Scene at Prince Gremin’s, where Herheim shows us nearly two centuries of specifically Russian images.

Through this scene pass Russian Orthodox priests, Cossacks, Hussars, 60’s Olympic gymnasts, peasant folk dancers, Odette-Odile and the Prince from Swan Lake (the dancer as the Prince flirts shamelessly with the mortified Onegin), even cosmonauts in full space suits and Communist soldiers, and, of course, the Bear. Andre de Jong’s choreography is witty, thrilling, and delightful.  Onegin wins a huge laugh at the end of this brilliant tour de force when he turns to the audience and sings, “I’m bored even here…”

Tatyana’s letter scene is also drawn as a psychological battle between the naïve Tatyana’s passion for Onegin and her mature love for Prince Gremin.  In this scene, the young Tatyana’s bedroom and writing desk occupy the main part of the staging, but always present is Prince Gremin in his bedroom on stage left.  Tatyana is pulled in and out of writing the letter by Gremin’s sleeping presence.  And, Onegin, in flashback, enters the room to watch Tatyana’s tormented writing, and then sits at her desk and writes the letter to her dictation!

It’s hard to describe the extraordinary dramatic impact of this staging.  Throughout the performance, director Herheim evinces a childlike wonder in creating his images.  There is nothing of the cynicism of some Regietheatre directors—Herheim is a remarkably imaginative director who nonetheless manages to create an overall framework that makes sense with the characters, the story, and the music.

He has a strong artistic partner in conductor Mariss Jansons, who leads a masterful performance from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, drawing a powerfully emotional reading of the music without resorting to sentimental tricks.  He clearly knows that Tchaikovsky’s score is fraught with emotion; orchestra and singers need not add more layers on top.

The cast is remarkably fine.  Krassimira Stoyanova sings with gorgeous tone and tosses off Tatyana’s passionate outbursts with ease and beauty.  She also clearly understands and commits to Herheim’s staging.  This Tatyana is torn between the present and the past, between Gremin and Onegin, between the various sides of her own personality. I’m sorry to say that she looks frumpy and matronly in Gesine Vollm’s costumes; in particular, her red ball gown that should be flattering, is poorly cut and only serves to emphasize her least attractive features.  And yet her performance is beguiling and powerful.

In quite a coup de theatre, the handsome young bass Mikhail Petrenko is cast in the usually-an-older-man-thrilled-with-his-young-wife role of Prince Gremin. He is every bit Onegin’s equal in looks and style, and the Prince’s big last act aria about his finding joy with Tatyana is brilliantly and gracefully sung.  Tenor Andrej Dunaev is very fine as the doomed poet Lensky, singing with a liquid, lovely tone and bringing depth of emotion without resorting to effects.  His “Kuda, kuda…” is a model of poised singing.

I also quite enjoyed the ladies of the Larin household—Olga Savova was luxury casting as Madame Larin, and Nina Romanova was delightful as Tatyana’s aging nanny Filipyevna.  Elena Maximova’s Olga bubbled with girlish charm and high spirits.  There was no ragged singing from anyone in the cast; all these Russian voices are in remarkable shape.

In the title role, Bo Skovhus was less successful.  Perhaps because of the direction, he seemed stuck in playing the character’s confusion, and we never saw the dark side of the character’s personality.  Even in lecturing Tatyana about her letter, he seemed unsure and too gentle.  His singing was fine, if a bit lighter than I would have liked.  He finally came into his own in the difficult final duet with Tatyana, but otherwise seemed too much “on the surface” of the role.  There was, for me, a sense that he wasn’t quite buying into Herheim’s wilder ideas.

The superb sets were designed by Phillip Furhofer and, outside of the unflattering costumes for Tatyana, designer Vollm gave us inventive and stylish clothes.  Lighting by Olaf Freese was vitally important in delineating time and place.  The very game chorus of De Nederlandse Opera sang beautifully and acted/danced as if they were having a fine time.  The audience certainly were!

Herheim’s vision is certainly not universally loved.  But he presents us with a unique and unified point of view that is highly theatrical but remarkable in its detail and inventiveness.  I could watch that “Russian history lesson dance” at Prince Gremin’s ball ten times, and still see new things in it; in addition, it places the story in a clear perspective of the national character of Russia.  And yet, Tchaikovsky’s personal torment, reflected in this magnificent music, is always present.

  • where Herheim shows us nearly two centuries of specifically Russian images….Through this scene pass Cossacks, Hussars …

    While there were/are Russian Cossacks and Hussars, they are not “specifically Russian.”

    The director also makes the production a comment on the very essence of the Russian character.

    Anybody who claims to identify the “essence” of a national “character” is a propagandist of some sort and should be treated with caution.

    But I don’t imagine that’s what’s going on here. Since the late 20th century, there certainly have been poly-stylistic, post-modern “meditations” on Russian history (e.g. Sorokin’s novels, Sokurov’s mesmerizing “Russian Ark”, or Leonid Desyatnikov’s “Rosenthal’s Children”.) These explorations of a nation’s past and its symbols are interrogatory, an attempt to find meaing in a society rocked by dislocation and after an era when all language and symbols were thoroughly debased by official discourse. They are not bald prescriptions for a “national character.”

    Herheim’s not Russian, of course, but I imagine he’s familiar with the contemporary Russian artistic scene. And indeed, it’s not hard to see Sokurov’s film in particular as an inspiration for elements of this production.

    • I think an argument can be made that the montage element (particularly the Polonaise “dream ballet”) can be understood subjectively, i.e., as seen through the limited perspective of Tatyana and particularly Onegin. Maybe I’m giving Herheim too much credit, but I feel like these scenes are done ironically and even (the Polonaise) as a deliberate parody of Sokurov’s film, sort of, what “Russian Ark” would be like if had been made by a pissy pseudo-intellectual socialite.

      This point is emphasized, I think, at the Ball proper, when Gremin and Tatyana arrive as as sort of musical comedy version of Nicholas and Alexandra, with the dioramas of cosmonauts and courtiers revolving in the background during Gremin’s aria. I see this as the deliberate use of kitsch to delineate just how shallow Onegin is to be so dazzled by Gremin’s wealth and Tatyana’s newfound glamour. Even Onegin’s fantasies have a second-hand, repurposed quality to them, because for all his posturing he’s not in any way an original thinker. (This I would say is more Pushkin than Tchaikovsky, but at least it’s not sloppiness on Herheim’s part as you suggest.)

      • Perhaps I expressed myself poorly, La Cieca, because I think we’re talking at cross-purposes here.

        I, too, hope that Herheim intended the montage sequence ironically, as a subversion (or at least an unmooring) of images associated with “Russia”. The problem with irony is that not every audience member understands the subtext -- what you interpret as parody was described the reviewer (and one or two commenters) as an affirmative depiction the “essence” of the “national character” and “Russian soul”. This type of talk irritates me, so I was trying to defend Herheim from his reviewer.

        (P.S. I would be surprised if Herheim were trying to parody “Russian Ark” instead of trying to emulate it. Sokurov’s film is already rife with parody.)

        (P.P.S I also wonder whether problems creep up when trying to use these “kitsch” devices outside of Russia. Sorokin, running through his catalogue of literary parodies in Blue Lard, implicitly argues that there is nothing any more that is not kitschified. Everything is a clone, all symbols are debased in meaning. The failure, in the Russian context, is everybody’s. It’s a cultural diagnosis.

        In your interpretation of Herheim’s Onegin, the failure is specifically Onegin’s -- this is not the same thing. This isn’t to say that Herheim’s approach is invalid, but that it’s useful to recognize that he’s appropriating techniques developed in one milieu and repackaging them for another. If the audience doesn’t feel directly confronted by the failure of the imagery, then they might not feel implicated by that failure and instead view the succession of images as a triumphal parade celebrating the “Russian character”. Instead of irony, we end up with garden variety exoticism.)

        • oedipe

          I, too, hope that Herheim intended the montage sequence ironically, as a subversion (or at least an unmooring) of images associated with “Russia”.

          Oh, it’s quite likely that Herheim intended to present a parody of the “essence of the Russian character”. But that’s precisely the problem! Herheim’s parody comes out condescending and stereotypical. When Tcherniakov uses irony to dissect the “Russian character” and Russian history, it’s done from the inside. To me, this sort of like non-Jews telling jokes about Jews, or non-blacks telling jokes about blacks; it just doesn’t feel right.

          • Buster

            Plus Tcherniakov’s stagings breathe, while this one pants.

          • MontyNostry

            It’s because they carry all that extra meta-weight, Buster. I was thinking, it’s the operatic equivalent of a news report with tickers flying across the screen all the time.

          • Regina delle fate

            Oedipe -- I have to agree. And what was so touching about the Tcherniakov was the exceptionally young cast. Both Skovhus and Stoyanova look a bit middle-aged in Herheim’s production -- and essentially he’s recycling the foundation idea of his Parsifal and Salome. I think there’s a naivety about Tchaikovsky’s opera that Herheim completely misses and the scene changes eventually swamp the characters -- at least they did in the theatre without the camera in close-up. Herheim’s Rusalka, on the other hand, works brilliantly, but it is a more layered piece than Eugene Onegin.

          • essentially he’s recycling the foundation idea of his Parsifal and Salome

            Which is? I don’t know the Salome production so I can’t comment on it, but to me the Parsifal and Onegin were about as different as can be.

  • Liz.S

    I loved Herheim’s Parsifal and was interested in this

    “there appears the Russian bear, life-size and dancing”
    “He remains a force in the piece”
    YES! A bear makes much more sense than a penguin ;-)

    Seriously, great review, nice clip for us to get a glimpse of the production and Janson’s music making, thank you and thank you -- I have to add this to my Christmas wishlist!!!

    • Rory Williams

      I’m still loving that penguin, Liz ;)

  • A. Poggia Turra

    Thank you for the excellent review. It’s interesting to contrast Herheim with Andrea Breth’s 2007 Salzburg production, set in a latter 20th century setting.

    And speaking of Andrea Breth, a programming note: Ms. Breth’s new production of “La Traviata”, which premiered last Tuesday at Die Munt/La Monnaie, will be streamed live on Saturday 15 December at 20:00 CET on Arte LiveWeb (it will also be streamed on the Monnaie’s website in January.

  • Buster

    Saw this in the house, it sure looked, and sounded very expensive. After Stoyanova’s letter scene there was an endless ovation of a sort I had not heard there for ages -- well deserved! She did look a little old for the part, though. The orchestra and Jansons were incredible , and Skovhus had eased into the production, and sang very well at the final performance. Still, I felt a little detached from all that was going on on stage, there was too much to take in, and it was revolving as well, so I left the performance with a feeling I had eaten too many pancakes.

    • My feeling (and David Shengold made the same point in his Opera News review) is that in this particular production, middle-aged principals make perfect sense. They are, after all, recalling most of the action of the opera as events in the past.

      Admittedly, Onegin says “at the age of 26” in his monologue at Gremin’s ball, but that goes by very quickly and it’s not like the rest of the production is done in any sort of literal way anyway.

      There’s a marvelous moment at the beginning of the letter scene: Tatyana is pacing nervously before going to bed with Gremin and then she hears the voice of Filippevna and is startled. Stoyanova turns and looks at the old lady so strangely, as if to say, “But you died years ago? How can you be here?” Then just a few seconds later, she sits on her old single bed and when hugs the comforter to her there is a tiny thrill of satisfaction: she recognizes her old room and she knows that somehow she is back in the past.

      I have always thought of Stoyanova as a lovely singer but rather a flat actress, but in this production there is so much complexity in what she is playing. This is all the more amazing when (in the supplementary documentary) she reveals that this is her first Tatyana ever!

      All this I think goes to show just how very special a director Herheim is: that he can see the production on this vast multi-layered macro level but meanwhile help a performer with such tiny subtle moments that are obviously not part of the “standard’ Onegin.

      How fascinating it would be to see Netrebko in a production like this — though presumably she would hold out for a better-fitting ball gown and slip…

      • Freniac

        One of the loveliest moments in the first half of the opera is Onegin’s rebuke of Tatyana after he has received the letter. The young Tatyana is played by a dancer, and we see the older Tatyana watching the scene, reliving the trauma, at time trying to comfort her younger self. I think this was one of the most moving scenes, with, again, subtle and convincing acting by Stoyanova and giving a great example of the potential emotional effectiveness the temporal layering of Herheim’s direction.

      • SF Guy

        You mean, like the better fitting gown Netrebko held out for in this production?

    • Buster

      Don’t know, that whole Scrooge approach I found both heavyhanded and unclear, but maybe I am not familiar enough with the work to appreciate it fully. I will definitely watch it on DVD again.

  • Rowna

    Wonderful review. I would actually buy this DVD but after hearing a few moments of Mr. Skovhus, I will decline. This is one of my all time favorite operas. The music is so Russian, capturing not only the mood of the story but also representing the soul of the people and the nation’s history. I have to confess about a shallow feeling I had after seeing Ms Stoyanova’s costume, that it ruined her vocal interpretation of the letter scene. Sometimes you need the right amount of glamour and well fitting dress to complete a total artistic experience.

    • Porgy Amor

      Skovhus is on a short list for me: singers of international reputation with whom I’ve had such consistently bad experience that I don’t want to go near. I would take a chance on him as Wozzeck, maybe. I know he’s admired in it. He certainly can play neurosis and psychopathology; his remarkably ugly sound wouldn’t be such a drawback, and his being over the note so much of the time wouldn’t be as obvious to me. But Count Almaviva, Rodrigue, Onegin? God, no. Hives.

      • MontyNostry

        Whenever I hear Skovhus I think of him as a(somewhat strangulated) Siegmund manqué.

      • Rowna

        Well, I only knew him by name before this. I am not up to speed with most Parterrians re all this opera stuff … but I didn’t like him from his first note. On my short list of singers I just don’t get is Christine Schaefer -- although I haven’t heard her “live” so maybe it isn’t fair. I have no idea why she is cast is such a wide variety of roles with iconicly different voice types, but she must have a really great agent.

        • Enzo Bordello

          Schaefer in her prime was a valid contender in the German lyric-coloratura fach with a solid technique and pleasant tone--unlike that joke Mojca Erdmann. She studied with Hans Hotter and is a compelling lieder artist. I saw her Lulu twice at the Met in 2001 and it is still the most accurate, well sung account of the role I have heard live. And her ease in the vast amount of spoken German dialogue was a considerable asset. The problem is Schaefer is still being offered and accepting repertoire she sang well 10-15 years ago but is now beyond her current abilities. Whether she should retire from opera or seek more appropriate repertoire is another question. But she is no fraud.

          • armerjacquino

            Beautifully put. I’ve seen Schafer as a terrific Gilda and as a too-old-wrong-voice Sophie. She does seem to be taking some strange assignments these days- I suppose because her voice is still quite light and bright and so she hasn’t followed the usual path of moving towards the Countesses and Fiordiligis and Agathes.

          • MontyNostry

            I saw Schaefer do a very good Pierrot Lunaire a few years ago. But I’m not sure if that would be great credentials for a continuing career at the Met …

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            I found her extremely mannered and fuzzy-toned in a Lieder recital at the Wigmore Hall a couple of years ago, but things like her Mozart concert arias disc show she did have a very beautiful and flexible voice.

            I saw her as Sophie when she was quite right to be singing it, in roughly 1999 or so, but I’m afraid I don’t remember a great deal about it other than a generally favourable impression.

          • Rowna

            Thank you -- I was unaware of her til just a few years ago, so I didn’t know her in her prime. It is always an asset to sing in your native tongue! I have no idea how so many great singers manage all these languages, but most often they do best in their first language.

          • damekenneth

            I am not a fan of Schaefer’s voice, finding the tone a bit wiry and whitish. But I did rather fall in love with her during her run as Gretyl at the Met. The big dream ballet scene, done in this (widely traveled) production as an enormous feast served by cartoonish characters, required a long pantomime by H&G as they watched this feast being laid out. As part of this they were helped to step into grown up (i.e., oversized) fancy dress clothes to sit down for dinner, making them look little kids playing dressup with adult clothes. Schaefer’s simultaneous and very childlike expressions of awe, delight and fear were deeply moving. Also, her silvery vocal tone suited the character and she was, after all, able to ride the big and quite high climaxes the role demands. These attributes made up for her dreadful mushmouthed English (!) diction. I tend to agree with the comment about her being somewhat overrated however.

          • operalover9001

            I don’t think it’s fair to completely dismiss Erdmann as a joke. Yes, her Zerlina and Susanna at the Met were shrill and underpowered, but her Salzburg Zaide was excellent, and her recent Lulu from Berlin (?) got good reviews as well. She’s just a singer who probably shouldn’t be singing at big (as in physically large) houses.

          • Feldmarschallin

            The early Sophies in San Francisco were quite good but the last ones at the Met were too late. The Lulu was perfect for her but I doubt she still could sing it. It is a big difficult for her now since she is getting older but unlike Damrau whose voice has filled out in the middle, Schäfers really hasnt so she cannot start singing the heavier lyric roles like Gräfin Almaviva or Fiordiligi for example. Donna Anna was always grenzpartie for her. She is very intelligent and in her Lieder one can hear that. But time is not on her side and there are not many roles I can think of that she can still sing. Bergers voice also never filled out but stayed fresh and she sounded young still at 60. Schäfer is in her late 40’s I assume.

          • Arianna a Nasso

            Schaefer is 47 per Wikipedia, so as a lyric coloratura/soubrette, her best years are behind her. She’s had a major career for 20 years and probably can continue a few more years in recital, concert, and a handful of carefully chosen roles. Such is the fate of most in that Fach.

  • oedipe

    The director also makes the production a comment on the very essence of the Russian character.

    I agree that it is Herheim’s intention to make a comment on “the very essence of the Russian character”. Problem is, what he comes up with is an almost random pile of stereotyped images, as seen by a “tourist” from a western culture, a sort of caricature of Russia that offers little insight into its history. To get real insight into the Russian character, I suggest seeing Tcherniakov’s Ruslan.

    Herheim is not at his best here, IMO; this is nothing like his Parsifal. If one has a similar background to Herheim’s and shares his superficial stereotypes of Russia and the “essence of the Russian character”, maybe s/he can find this production satisfying. But it’s certainly not my case.

    Good and well written review of the performers, though.

    • MontyNostry

      I haven’t seen a Herheim production yet, but it does sound rather as though he applies a similar (clearly very lavish and relentlessly durchgedacht) treatment to whichever piece he is approaching, whether it’s a lofty epic like Parsifal or an intimate human drama like Onegin. All part of the Director Brand, I guess! While this ‘everything but the kitchen-sink’ philosophy doesn’t appeal to me, it could probably be usefully deployed on something like Robert le Diable, where the overlay of history and Rezeption is probably the most interesting thing about the piece.

      • I haven’t seen a Herheim production yet

        Please don’t let that prevent you from offering an opinion, though.

        • MontyNostry

          Profuse apologies for not couching my thoughts in enough layers of conditionality.

    • My understanding is that this “essence of the Russian character” bit comes from the reviewer, not from Herheim himself. I’m not as expert in Herheim as many in this room, but I’d hate to believe his intentions are as oafish as the ones claimed in the review. Herheim’s postmodern, polystylistic visual trchniques might be described as second-hand though, and you might well prefer a director (Cherniakov) with better contact to artistic milieu which brought it forth.

  • TShandy

    Instead of actually pretending to direct a Eugene Onegin, Stefan Herheim (opera’s hottest mess today) should have done what Vladimir Nobokov did after translating and annotating Pushkin’s Onegin: he created “Pale Fire” which was, of course, a brilliant and hysterically funny account of a madman’s (Charles Kinbote) attempt to illuminate the poem “Pale Fire” by John Shade. Do you get it? Stefan Herheim should have only used the Tchaikovsky music and left the staging to tell the story of his own ridiculous life. A brilliant concept, if I do say so myself.

    • la vociaccia

      Honest question, TShandy: Have you ever, an any medium, experienced a Herheim production? I just ask because this is the second time you’ve written a pretty definitive opinion about Herheim, and I just wonder what exactly is your criteria for referring to him as “opera’s hottest mess” and damning his life as “ridiculous,”apart from a few (admittedly accurate thanks to Mr Keys) reviews.

      • TShandy

        The idea of telling a completely different story to an opera, only using the original score, came to me when I witnessed a YouTube clip from a highly regarded Die Walküre where Seiglinde pulls Nothung from the tree. I thought, why be constrained “at all” by the plot? As a matter of fact, why be constrained by the music? Directors should be free to use whatever music they like and tell whatever story they wish when engaged to direct an opera. Der Ring des Nibelungen could be the account of some hot stud getting his Prince Albert at Mr. S Leather.

        • Kilian

          What a strange example to prove your point. That scene is from the Danish Opera production (and, by the way, I think she is helping Siegmund to pull Nothung from the tree, she is not doing this completely on her own). The director IS addressing the plot there. He emphasizes that Sieglinde plays a part in her own liberation from Hunding. He wants to show us that Siegmund needs her help to get the sword and she needs him to get away from Hunding. In a more traditional staging of this scene, Sieglinde would be a rather passive force and one could argue she is passed from one ‘owner’ to the next. When she helps pull the sword out, she makes a more active choice. It doesn’t have to be staged like that, but to claim that the director is telling a completely different story is somewhat strange. Herheim isn’t telling ‘a completely different story’ in his Onegin -- which I saw in the house -- either.

        • Maybe someone can explain to me why the anti-Regie argument invariably and very quickly degenerates into irrelevant talk about S&M, with the very clear implication that anyone who is interested in such disgusting stuff should keep his lube-slick mitts off our lovely clean opera.

          • TShandy

            But guys, you’re missing the whole point of Pale Fire. Nabokov found it ridiculous that he was annotating and illuminating Eugene Onegin, when the poem actually spoke for itself. Don’t look at me, the idea was brilliantly put forth by Susan Sontag in Against Interpretation. In other words, Tchaikovsky and his librettist gave Eugene Onegin its “transcendent power’ and the work doesn’t need directorial “intellectually constructed abstractions.” AS for S&M… Pamela Rosenberg presented a Damnation of Faust that replaced the Berlioz arcadian fields with an S&M orgy. I saw it. It was an abomination (and that includes the singing).

          • But guys, you’re missing the whole point of Pale Fire. Nabokov found it ridiculous that he was annotating and illuminating Eugene Onegin, when the poem actually spoke for itself.

            Wait, this is your take-away from reading Pale Fire? Wow.

          • phoenix

            I don’t object to the regie at all -- it just doesn’t sound that interesting aurally. The flashback concept of casting middle-age singers doesn’t hide the audial fact that the listener is being cheated with mediocre singing -- particularly the dull Stojanova (but Skovhus is still a great vocal actor and I can easily accept an older Onegin who blasts around a bit yet compensates with a vivid, intense reading). Just think, this middleage flashback casting concept could take over the circuit: for the next Ring cycle we could keep the same cast as the present one and have Brünnhilde ensconced in the Valhalla Nursing Home contemplating the whole thing during memory training exercises.
            -- Stojanova is the major problem here -- she doesn’t dislay much dramatic vocal involvement to offset her unexciting interpretation -- but then that could probably be justified by the regie interpretation stagedirection ? perhaps the stage director wanted her to sound so tedious that by the final duet the audience would achive a personal identification with Onegin’s frustration.

    • And here I thought someone named Tristan Shandy would enjoy ludic forms of storytelling.

      • manou

        True -- but a bit Sterne.

        • Sterne only for those who prefer Sentimental Journeys.

      • er, “Tristram”. Effing autocorrect.

      • TShandy

        Yes, m.croche, Nabokov thought the whole idea of his annotating Eugene Onegin was so ridiculous that he wrote Pale Fire as a satire.

        • I’m reminded of the Woody Allen joke about the speed-reading course he took. “We read all of War and Peace in twenty minutes,” he proudly declared. “It’s about Russia.”

          • TShandy

            You you took Charles Kinbote’s interpretation of John Shade’s “Pale Fire” as a serious academic interpretation and criticism. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! M. Croche, YOU should be directing opera!

          • Not likely, I have little talent for the theater. It’s always useful to know one’s own limitations, right?

  • Great review. I’m intrigued to see the production.

  • Bianca Castafiore

    Just tiny observation, that it should be Madame LarinA…

  • DonCarloFanatic

    Skovhus reminds me of what Europeans think Americans look and act like, especially Texans. Even though Texas is but one of 50 states.

    Similarly, the “essence of the Russian character” can’t be expressed as from only one cultural strain, or as merely images of the past, but at least these stereotypes call up thoughts of the many elements that could be meaningful in this particular story. Whether played straight or as parody.

    It’s not a perfect Onegin, but it’s definitely worth seeing and hearing at least once.