Following the shimmering, eye-catching theatricality of their 2005 production of Aida at Dubai Opera last week, Polish National Opera’s Eugene Onegin offered a poignant, thought-provoking and worthy contrast. Rich in symbolic detail, the production exudes a fresh and inventive style that has been part of the company’s collection for 16 years since it first premiered in 2002.
|Olga Busuioc as Tatyana and Michał Partyka as Eugnen Onegin|
Sung with impressive and evocative use of the text, the beautifully shaped lustrous soprano of Olga Busuioc’s dreamy Tatyana and the deeply grained baritone of Michał Partyka’s arrogant, predator-like Onegin made a powerful pair in their disquieting depiction of love and rejection.
“Once more Onegin has crossed my path like a merciless ghost!” Tatyana expresses in the final act, shocked when Onegin reappears years after her being rejected by him. Created as a pivotal metaphor, the haunting, white-coated, silent figure of an old Onegin remained a constant and powerful presence on stage. Likewise nameless (he isn’t credited in the program), this silent actor interacted, coerced, toyed and attacked Tatyana in a captivating performance.
Onegin, depicted as the sophisticated and intellectual gent, fiercely independent, cold-hearted and the generator of a trail of destruction - is he really so despicable? In a clever, perhaps ambiguous way, Treliński seems to punish him as harshly as society has marked him. Onegin sees life differently, he can see himself for who he is and, as for me, the more brutal the ghostly Onegin became, the more the creepy, black-coated real Onegin deserved our sympathy.
|Michał Partyka as Eugene Onegin|
Alongside the leading pair, rich and firmly supported mezzo-soprano Monika Ledzion as Tatyana’s outgoing sister Olga, and shiny tenor Pavlo Tostoy, as her unworldly and jealous boyfriend Lensky, sang with inspiring zealousness in sharing a touching contrast to Tatyana and Onegin. As Tatyana’s old attentive nanny Filippyevna, Anna Lubańska was a rich-voiced and robust presence while Joanna Motulewicz suitably and staunchly portrayed the pragmatic Larina, Tatyana’s mother and owner of the rural estate.
Sergii Magera’s short but excellent turn as a noble Prince Gremin came with a strong and glowing ember-toned bass and Aleksander Kruczek brought a little camp and colourful accompaniment and debonair flair with his warm and comforting lyrical tenor. As peasants, ballroom guests and aristocrats, the Polish National Opera Chorus kept in fine step but wavered in a disappointing show of harmony after such refined singing a week prior in Aida. Even Tchaikovsky’s score, expert as the musicians were, lacked integrated consistency when the full force of the Polish National Orchestra played under Andrei Yurkevich’s leadership. But the prominent willowy parts for woodwind were a pleasurable listen.
|Act 2, Scene 1: The Ballroom of the Larin House, Eugene Onegin|
Treliński’s cinematic eye gave each episode intrigue as they unfold with ever-changing but slow-moving shifts. Boris Kudlička’s restrained set elements became especially effective under Felice Ross’ broad palette of vivid lighting. A gramophone used to accompany Olga and Lensky’s first-act dance places the story in the 1920s, helping to pinpoint Joanna Klimas’ part-austere, part-flamboyant and suitably demarcated costumes.
A great deal of satisfaction came from seeing Eugene Onegin in an interpretation that adjusts the lens on the titular character to give it quite a punch and shakeup. Marvellously sung as it was, it’s Treliński that stood centre stage in this instance.
Polish National Opera Production
Until 22nd February
Production Photos: Teatr Wielki