Eugene Onegin, Royal Opera House, London

3.00

 

Kasper Holten’s directorial debut in the opera house he has led for the past eighteen months has been keenly awaited: he can certainly talk the talk, but can he walk the walk?

When the curtain rises on Mia Stensgaard’s country-mansion set, Onegin (Simon Keenlyside) and Tatyana (Krassimira Stoyanova) warily circle each other, she holding a letter which she crumples in a fit of despair: Holten’s ‘Onegin’ will be a drama framed by memory. The doors are thrown open, and summer sun pours through, with the older women’s nostalgia blending with the young women’s dreams; when Lensky introduces Onegin to Tatyana, it’s love at first sight. But the ensuing peasant festivities are the antithesis of what we usually get: everyone’s in black, nobody dances, and two figures – simulacra of the protagonists – mime the love-story being sung. The effect is disturbing and sinister.

In the Letter Scene we learn what Holten is really up to, for here Tatyana has a body-double clad in an identical red dress. Tatyana sings, and the body-double writes and dances daintily round the stage, the physical embodiment of Tatyana’s younger self. In one sense this is a legitimate construction to put on a letter which is itself a multi-layered tissue of past and future, dreams and fantasies, and the choreography is delicately done. But it fatally dilutes the intensity of this great aria, and this is sad, because Stoyanova is a superb singer with a presence easily powerful enough to command the stage unaided. Worse, a similar device is used for the duel, where the fatal shot is fired by a body-double while a grief-stricken Onegin flits helplessly round the scene like a ghost. All this has a distancing effect, dissipating one’s involvement with the drama. Meanwhile the orchestral entr’acte reflecting the succession of balls in which Onegin drowns his sorrows is reduced to a bevy of 19th century pole-dancers. Body-doubles reappear during the final regretful duet, needlessly spelling out what the music is already making clear thanks to Robin Ticciati’s inspired conducting as much as to the singers.

If Keenlyside finally seems a bit underpowered, there are some nice cameos, notably Diana Montague’s Madame Larina and Christophe Mortagne’s Triquet, and in the quarrel scene Pavol Breslik’s Lensky emerges heartrendingly. But it’s debatable whether this interesting directorial take plays fair with the opera.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
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.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test