In the second production of its Centennial Season, San Francisco Opera presents Tchaikovsky’s interpretation of Alexandr Pushkin’s Romantic tragedy, Eugene Onegin.
Led by Vassilis Christopoulos – one of Greece’s most renowned conductors – the line-up of stars includes soprano Evgenia Muraveva as the heroine Tatyana, with bass-baritone Gordon Bintner in the title role. Tenor Evan LeRoy Johnson is the poet Lensky, Tatyana’s sister Olga is sung by mezzo-soprano Aigul Akhmetshina and mezzo-soprano Deborah Nansteel is Madame Larina, (all five making their debuts with SF Opera). Bass Ferrucio Furlanetto is Prince Gremin, Ronnita Miller is Filipyevna and Brenton Ryan is Monsieur Triquet.
The production is directed by Robert Carsen, revival Director is Peter McClintock and design is by Michael Levine.
Eugene Onegin was Tchaikovsky’s fifth completed opera. It was written and orchestrated by the composer between May 1877 and January 1878, and underwent four further revisions between March 1879 and June-July 1891. The libretto – after Alexandr Pushkin’s 1837 novel in verse – was devised by Tchaikovsky, assisted by Konstantin Shilovsky. The opera had its world premiere at the Maly Theatre in Moscow in 1879, performed by students from the Moscow Conservatory, directed by Ivan Samarin and conducted by Tchaikovsky’s close friend Nikolai Rubinstein.
Tchaikovsky’s opera is a classic portrayal of the drama, passion and insight into human nature which characterizes great Russian music and literature. When Lensky introduces his friend, the dashing and handsome Onegin, to the Larin household, the young and somewhat naïve Tatiana falls in love with him, but is rather coolly spurned. She grows into an elegant, aristocratic woman, and ultimately marries Prince Gremin, meeting up again with Onegin at a ball in St Petersburg. Despite the strength of feeling that they discover between the two of them, she remains faithful to her husband, and when Onegin insults Lensky by flirting with Olga, Lensky challenges him to a duel – with tragic results.
Young Russian soprano Evgenia Muraveva is described by anaclas.com as a “singer with masterful legato and fluent timbre”. She has already sung the role of Tatyana at Komische Opera, Berlin, and also appeared in Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame at both the Bolshoi and Mariinsky theatres. Other roles which she has sung include those of Leonora in Verdi’s Il trovatore at the Tatarstan Opera Theatre, and for Saint-Petersburg Opera she has sung the title role in Puccini’s Tosca, Nedda in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, Mimi in Puccini’s La bohème, Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and the Contessa in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.
Following bass-baritone Gordon Bintner’s six seasons as a member of the Oper Frankfurt ensemble, he made two highly acclaimed debuts – as Junior in Bernstein’s A Quiet Place at Opéra National de Paris, and as Guglielmo in Mozart’s Così fan tutte at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. He returns to the Royal Opera House later in the season as Albert in Massenet’s Werther, and appears with the Canadian Opera Company as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, where he was formerly a member of the Opera Studio. There he made his debut as Onegin, as Belcore in Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore and as Papageno in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, prompting La Presse, Montreal to predict: “This man will certainly have a big career.”
American tenor Evan LeRoy Johnson is described by Backtrack as “… a talent to watch for: he has both stage presence and vocal presence by the bucketload”. Among notable appearances, he has sung the Prince in Dvořák’s Rusalka at Glyndebourne Festival, Cassio in Verdi’s Otello at
Bayerische Saatsoper, and Narraboth in Strauss’s Salome. Debut appearances include the role of Edgardo in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and Andres in Berg’s Wozzeck at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence.
Russian mezzo-soprano Aigul Akhmetshina, according to David Mellor in the Daily Mail, “… has got it all: striking good looks, a vibrant stage presence and a great voice”. He describes her as “The new Netrebko”. This season, she makes her debut at Teatro Real as Angelina in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, and as Rosina in his Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Opéra national de Paris. She will also sing this role in a return to Deutsche Oper, Berlin. Future engagements include debuts at the Metropolitan Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Gran Teatre del Liceu and Dutch National Opera, and she returns to the Royal Opera House, Opéra national de Paris, Teatro Real Madrid, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Opernhaus Zürich and Glyndebourne Festival.
Vassilis Christopoulos is the former Artistic Director of the Athens State Orchestra, Chief Conductor of the Southwest German Philharmonic Orchestra of Constance, and since 2016 he has been Professor of Conducting at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Frankfurt.
In 2017 he inaugurated Greek National Opera’s new venue in Athens with the company’s first ever production of Strauss’s Elektra, followed two years later by Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District – unanimously hailed as an indisputable musical triumph. He led the GNO in its first production of Wozzeck, and marks his US debut with this production of Eugene Onegin.
Maestro Christopoulos conducts the San Francisco Opera and Chorus (Director John Keene) in Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous score for Eugene Onegin – sung in Russian with English supertitles. It runs at the War Memorial Opera House until October 14th. For further information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Opera website.
The October 1st production of Eugene Onegin will be live-streamed at 2.00 pm (Pacific) and will also be available on-demand for 48 hours from 10.00 am (Pacific) on October 2nd. Tickets for the streamed performances are available on the San Francisco Opera website.
All photographs © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera
Information sourced from:
San Francisco Opera program notes