Arts Review: Eugene Onegin

29th Apr – 5th May, Theatre Royal 

If you’ve ever run into an ex and enjoyed the unique pleasure of being able to show off how significantly better your life is without them, then you’ll appreciate Eugene Onegin. Scottish Opera’s staging of the Tchaikovsky classic follows sisters Tatyana (Natalya Romaniw) and Olga (Sioned Gwen Davies) as they experience love and heartbreak in the Russian countryside. Both women feel an instant attraction to their new neighbour, Eugene Onegin (Samuel Dale Johnson), despite Olga’s engagement to his closest friend, Vladimir Lensky (Peter Auty). Complications ensue. I’m not sure I’ve ever related more to a character in an opera than I did during Tatyana’s anguish following her rash sending of a love letter to Onegin. If that’s not me the morning after some questionable drunk texts were sent, I don’t know what is.

Our heroine’s innocence and suffering are beautifully conveyed by Romaniw, while Davies’ Olga is the perfect blend of brash and besotted. Johnson transforms himself from the self-assured Onegin in the first act to the directionless fool in the last. Yet, it’s Peter Auty as the rejected and desperate lover Lensky who steals the show with his gut-wrenching descent into jealousy.

Unfortunately, the production ultimately falls a little short of the high standard you expect from Scottish Opera. Compelling individual performances notwithstanding, something just doesn’t quite gel. It could be the translucent screen that separates the chorus from the action front of stage, deadening the sound, and stifling the atmosphere. There are also a few moments that jar you out of the story, with easy gimmicks such as an entrance on the back of a clearly jittery horse and needless nudity. They don’t mesh well with the classic style that this performance is striving for and instead they just distract from the narrative. It’s a shame, because the vocal performances of all the stars would absolutely shine if only presented more cohesively.

This staging of Eugene Onegin is still hugely entertaining, but I found myself willing the performance to reach a slightly higher standard and truly do the opera justice. They’re close, but no cigar.

[Louise Wylie – @womanpendulum]

Image Credit: James Glossop

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