The difficulties in translating Pushkin’s verse novel have rendered Eugene Onegin little known in the English speaking world. To any Russian, however, it is an integral part of the country's rich and turbulent history. First appearing in serial form in the 1820s, the story was later adapted into an opera by Tchaikovsky. It premiered in Moscow in 1879.
Deborah Warner’s new adaptation of this great story uses expansive and very effective spaces including a huge barn in Act I, a large hall followed by a glistening lake in Act II, and an extravagant ballroom in Act III. Within, excellent feats of choreography and singing take place.
Highlights of the performance include Toby Spence’s energetic and charismatic portrayal of Lenksy. His presence dominates Act I. Brindley Sherratt makes an outstanding Prince Gremin, bringing gravitas and dignity to the role. Adrian Thompson is also notable as Frenchman Monsieur Triquet. He steals the beginning of Act II by singing in honour of Tatyana on her name day. We also liked the stylized peasant rituals, and songs which provide a respite from the central doomed love story.
Kim Brandstrup’s choreography is noteworthy. The dancing during the penultimate scene is captivating and the movement of guests at the ball around the main characters provides a perfect backdrop. Tom Pye’s sets are also fantastic, ranging from the icy coldness of the frozen lake to the soaring pillars of the ballroom.
One minor quibble: the eponymous protagonist might have been developed further. Audun Iversen’s portrayal of Onegin lacked the arrogance, selfishness and contempt that are such a feature of the original book. His initial rejection of Tatyana errs on the nice side; more disdain would have provided a better balance to the events.
Overall, this is an excellent performance and we would strongly encourage a visit.
By Rachel Phillips.
Onegin is showing on 15, 18, 23, 25, 29 November at 7pm, 20 November at 3pm and 3 December at 6pm. Tickets are available from the ENO website or by calling +44 (0) 871 911 0200.