Eugene Onegin, Coliseum, London
Thomas Larcher, Wigmore Hall, London

Deborah Warner's take on Tchaikovsky's gold-spun opera is at times incendiary, but why does she take so long to make us care?

A single kiss in a heartbeat of silence, a moment's respite from pain.

 As conductor Edward Gardner presses the pause button on Tchaikovsky's spun-gold score, Deborah Warner's English National Opera production of Eugene Onegin finally ignites. Lips locked, Tatiana and Onegin can dream of what might have been, what still might be. It's too late, of course, and the third heart to be broken in this triptych of heartbreaks is about to shatter.

After the visual provocations of Barrie Kosky's Castor and Pollux, it is fascinating to feel the shock of a minute's silence in an otherwise traditional Onegin. How better to suspend disbelief in a work so well-known? But why leave it so late to make us feel, to make us care? Mindful perhaps of the conservative New York audience, Warner is sparing in her interventions in this ENO/Metropolitan co-commission. Though visually opulent, the production is emotionally costive, less a living drama than the enactment of a ritual in an imagined Russia of balletic serfs and bearded priests.

At its sparest, Warner's work remains incendiary. In the sudden shaft of sunlight on Tatiana's book in Act I, the pietà at the close of Act II and the kiss of Act III, text, score and character are illuminated. Elsewhere, it's touristic, stagey, superficial. While Claudia Huckle's Olga is beautifully detailed, every wrinkle of her pretty nose expressive of the younger sister's temperament, Catherine Wyn-Rogers as the nurse, Adrian Thompson's Monsieur Triquet, Brindley Sherratt's Gremin and Diana Montague's Larina are under-directed. Experienced artists and fine singers all, they can cope. But it's a shame more time wasn't spent on them, and less on the army of pumpkin-polishing peasants.

In the pit, Gardner's pacing is superb: bold, engaged and imaginative. The orchestral sound is magnificent, the chorus on fine form. But though Toby Spence's Lensky makes an immediate impact – flirtatious and proud, with real beauty and richness of sound – Amanda Echalaz's Tatiana is diffident and hard-edged. Inexpressive in Act I, Audun Iversen's Onegin shows his vulnerability as he brushes the hair from his dead friend's brow, his tone grave and tender. Like the kiss, it's too little, too late.

Last weekend, the Wigmore Hall devoted a day to the chamber music of Thomas Larcher, with performances by cellist Thomas Demenga, Larcher himself, Quatuor Diotima, the Belcea Quartet and Mark Padmore, dedicatee of Larcher's latest song-cycle, A Padmore Cycle. As immersion projects go, this was a trip to a luxury spa. Larcher's music is well-made, all static beauty, scrabbling agitations, muted glissandi, elegant splinters and brief, sinus-clearing Romantic chords. Above all, it is well-read, with allusions to Schubert, Berg and Schoenberg.

A few improvisatory passages apart, nothing is left to chance. Larcher's aesthetic extends to the programme art (his own) and the uniform beauty of the smooth, grey pebbles he uses in the works for prepared piano. The artists he writes for share his attention to detail. From Diotima's poised readings of IXXU and Madhares, to soprano Christina Landshamer's star-bright intonation of My Illness is the Medicine I Need, and Padmore's keening, whispered aphorisms, these were faultless performances. And yet ...

As the day progressed, I slipped from enchantment to disgruntlement. Set against the sub-zero spritz of Kraken and the coppery drone of the Piano Quintet, Larcher's anthology of miniatures, Poems – 12 Pieces for Pianists and Other Children seemed too slight and self-reflexive for public performance, a minimalist Carnival of the Animals. The programme notes were a satirist's dream. Mumien, Larcher writes, conjures "elderberries in the stomach", while My Illness takes its text from Benetton's Colors magazine. What next? A World of Interiors cantata?

Only a sadist would wish the difficulties suffered by, say, Schubert on Larcher. But I can't help feeling a little grit would enrich his world view. Instead of reading interviews with psychiatric patients in a photo-essay, he could interview them himself. Instead of dreaming about the White Mountains of Crete, he could go there. Madhares is a glamorous idea of sun-scorched earth, not the real, goaty, scrubby thing, which, if it had a voice, would probably be a Cathy Berberian scream. Piece by piece, Larcher's perfect soundworld is mesmerising. Consumed in bulk, it is music for people who organise their bookshelves by the colour of the spines.

'Eugene Onegin' (0871 911 0200), to 3 Dec

Next Week:

Anna Picard sees if Errollyn Wallen's Yes is as affirming as it sounds

Classical Voice

Northern Ireland Opera springs into action with Oliver Mears' staging of Hansel and Gretel at the Grand Opera House, Belfast (from Thu), while Annilese Miskimmon's Opera Theatre Company opens The Magic Flute at Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin (Fri). In London's Kings Place, Katia and Marielle Labèque explore 50 Years of Minimalism (24, 25 26 Nov)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The new Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris
architecture

Arts and Entertainment
Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham
Downton

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

art
Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

    The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album