4/5 - The Royal Opera version from 2013. I really wanted to see this one because, well, Keenlyside, and the conceit sounded interesting. Then I read a whole bunch of lukewarm reviews, so I delayed buying it sight unseen (which I might otherwise have done). Well, someone finally put it up on youtube (first part here
) and now I am gonna have to buy it, because I thought it was completely fabulous (with one exception I will talk about). (No subtitles on this one either, sorry! I watched it with a browser tab open to the libretto in English.)
The conceit is that Keenlyside and Stoyanova are way too old to play the teenager versions of Onegin and Tatiana, so they have dancers that double as the younger selves (while Keenlyside and Stoyanova, of course, sing all the lines). It changes the whole thrust of the opera -- what is a fairly straightforward driving sequence of events in the original becomes instead a retrospective of regret. I think it would be a terrible first exposure to this opera (for which I'd absolutely recommend the Met version with Fleming and Hvorotovsky), but as a second one (which it was for me, or okay maybe the fourth or so) it's fabulous, it really brings out the themes of loss and regret from the very beginning; I find it a really interesting alternate interpretation.
Pavol Breslik as Lensky is very different from Ramon Vargas' Met Lensky (whom I also love), and I really love Breslik's way-too-sure-of-himself over-passionate bad-poet vibe, especially the parts where his aria to Olga is performed from a bit of paper where he's written it down, and where it turns out he's written the poem for Tatiana's birthday and mouths the poem while it's being sung, hee! I absolutely adore what Elena Maximova and the direction has done with Olga... I think the predominant interpretation (certainly the one the Met used) is that Olga is a shallow flirt, but here she gets depths -- certain lines in the libretto are brought out with the distinct implications that she's been a bit stampeded into this engagement by everyone's expectations, that she's not always comfortable with Lensky's suffocating attentions... I just fell in love with her character, after not liking her much in the Met version.
There are so many little interpretive bits that I loved. Stoyanova and her double (Vigdis Hentze Olsen) embracing in a rare moment of acknowledging each other as Stoyanova sings of how she is all alone. Keenlyside, when his declaration of love is met by Stoyanova showing him her past letter, recoiling in horror. LOVE IT. I also felt that the cinematography was excellent and really pointed up a lot of the interpretive choices that were being made.
I actually liked Breslik remaining on stage after the duel, as I felt it really underlined that the duel is at the heart of the opera -- although I can see why others thought it ham-handed. And it's true that I started worrying halfway through the last act that he must get really bored. Hopefully he could maybe take a nap or something?
I spent the entire time watching this squeeing quietly to myself about how much I loved it (except, okay, the Polonaise was a little... obvious?...I could have done without it), and then the ending happened and I started giggling, which was not the intention. I have problems with the ending in general, as I feel like Tchaikovsky really overdid the romanticism to begin with, but bringing in Prince Gremin to hear Onegin and Tatiana sing at top impassioned volume about their love for each other... just... didn't work. Especially the bit where Tatiana sees him but... keeps... singing, and at the same time Onegin doesn't apparently see him at all (which is somewhat OOC, for one thing). It just didn't work. I know why they did it -- to end with the tragic tableau of all three of them despairing -- and that was pretty cool actually -- but the leadup to it didn't work at all. It almost works if I pretend that Gremin is Tatiana's hallucination/construct, which in a production all about memory constructs and the past impinging on the present is less weird than it might seem at first glance. But yeah... the staging of the conclusion in the Met version was way better.
And, okay, Keenlyside and Stoyanova are brilliant singers and actors, but I must admit that I didn't get any chemistry between them at *all* (a lot of *emotion* between them, which was awesome, but no sexual chemistry). I mean, I could see that being part of the point...that anything that could have been between them was destroyed by what happened... but I think I was spoiled by the super chemistry between Fleming and Hvorotovsky in this regard. And I often find Keenlyside very *likeable*, as I did here, which isn't, uh, how I think I'm supposed to feel about Onegin. (It's something about his physical presence, I think. When I just listen to the audio, his Onegin is superb. But... I didn't get that vibe from his Don Giovanni. So in conclusion: I just don't know.)
Also now I'm annoyed because I can't find either my Met DVD or either of my copies of the Pushkin. It's like someone who was completely obsessed with Eugene Onegin carried them off somewhere to keep them secret and safe! Unfortunately... there's only one person in my house who fills that description...