Touching & traditional: Eugene Onegin in VancouverReview
Vancouver Opera’s Eugene Onegin is the starter of the 2018 Vancouver Opera Festival, kicked off with Russian splendour amidst Russian recitals, cultural performances and more. This production of Onegin by Tom Diamond is very true to its Russian roots, and has many charming touches to add to the setting and feel. From beautiful traditional Russian clothing, to traditional dancers, to the hay bales and sheaves of wheat in the field, these elements helped bring the setting to life. In addition, a cast of primarily Russian singers brought a great depth to a complex language not often heard in North American opera houses.
Mezzo-soprano Carolyn Sproule was breathtaking as Olga. Her voice lush and dark, and phenomenally powerful, even at her lowest range. As one of the few non-Russian principals, one would think she’d be at a disadvantage, but her diction was so flawless, that a native Russian speaker in attendance was amazed that it wasn’t her first language. I hope this role becomes a staple in her repertoire.
Soprano Svetlana Aksenova as Tatyana has a voice that is rich and powerful, and perfect for this style of opera. Her acting was compelling and the conflicted emotions that Tanya feels were so well executed it was a pleasure to watch. Her character was sympathetic, and she moved seamlessly between the besotted young woman, and the aristocratic noblewoman.
Tenor Alexei Dolgov was an emotional tempest as the ill-fated Lensky. His voice was incredibly bright and clear and filled with pathos, and his high notes sounded as brilliant as they did effortless. As a character whose passions run very hot, Dolgov brought a very sympathetic take to Lensky, from his love affair with Olga, to his jealousy of Onegin, to him facing his own end.
Baritone Konstantin Shushkov was a force of nature as the title character Onegin. His voice was incredibly brilliant and bright, it was simply flawless, and he plays the transition so well between the self-assured, cold suitor who turns down Tanya and the tortured soul who longs for redemption.
One of the highlights of the show was bass Goderdzi Janelidze’s aria as Prince Gremin in Act III. Janelidze was grand and resonant, bringing a gentle depth to the aria, and his performance absolutely brought the house down.
The VO Chorus was in great form as the Russian peasants in the fields, and the guests at the various parties. The elaborate ball in Act III was visually stunning, full of sumptuous costumes, courtly dances, and lots of small touches and funny moments in the characterizations in the chorus members.
This production was a real treat to watch, a great choice for VO’s festival, and I hope to see more of this style from them in the years to come.