Over the next week, the Metropolitan Opera’s revival of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin returns to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, where it opened on March 25th. Produced by Deborah Warner, Eugene Onegin stars soprano Ailyn Pérez as Tatiana, baritone Igor Golovatenko as Onegin, mezzo-soprano Varduhi Abrahamyan as Tatiana’s sister Olga, tenor Piotr Beczała as Olga’s husband Lenski and bass Ain Anger as Prince Gremin. Conductor James Gaffigan leads the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus.
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 mainly 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 Lenski 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 ultimately marries Prince Gremin, and – having grown into an elegant, aristocratic woman – meets up with Onegin again 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 Lenski by flirting with Olga, Lenski challenges him to a duel – with tragic results.
Hightlights of Ailyn Pérez’s current season include performances of Puccini’s Tosca at San Francisco Opera, Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Alice Ford in Verdi’s Falstaff at Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Massenet’s Manon at Opéra nationale de Paris, Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro at Staatsoper in Hamburg and Puccini’s La bohème at Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper. Pizzicato writes that Ms Pérez’s “….beautiful and generous voice, her commanding technique as well as the broadest possible spectrum of feelings allow her to make a captivating drama of every piece.”
A leading baritone at the Bolshoi Opera, Igor Golovatenko makes his Met Opera debut in the title role of Eugene Onegin. This year he has appeared as Andrey Shchelkalov from Musorgsky’s Boris Godunov at the Opera Apriori International Festival of Vocal Music, with the Berlin Philharmoniker as Robert, Duke of Burgundy, from Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, and as Giorgio Germont in Verdi’s La Traviata at the Bolshoi Theatre. He will be appearing as Sir Riccardo Forth in Bellini’s I puritani at Wiener Staatsoper this season, and will return to the Bolshoi Theatre to perform Marcello in Puccini’s La bohème.
Recent house debuts for Varduhi Abrahamyan include performances in Lucrezia Borgia at the Donizetti Opera Festival in Bergamo, in Bizet’s Carmen at Teatro Regio di Torino, Bayerische Staatsoper and Opera de Oviedo, in Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri at Gran Teatre del Liceu and in Verdi’s Don Carlos at Opera Las Palmas. With her “deep, husky voice” (New York Times) Ms Abrahamyan has also appeared in Eugene Onegin at Canadian Opera, as Preziosilla in Verdi’s La forza del destino at Opéra di Parigi, in Semiramide at the Rossini Opera Festival, as well as in Rossini’s La donna del lago at Opéra de Marseille.
“Piotr Beczala,” says Opera News, “has the kind of voice you want to hang medals on. Its luminosity makes many of his fellow lyric tenors, past and present, sound by comparison like flickering candlewicks. Beczala’s clarity and cleanliness of tone are the essence of his appeal.” He has appeared in many of the world’s finest opera houses, and is a regular guest at the Salzburg Festival. Following his performance in Eugene Onegin, he goes on tour to Colombia, Brazil and Argentina to perform in recital with Camillo Radicke, and then to the Wiener Staatsoper where he appears in recital with Sarah Tysman.
Ain Anger – “One of the greatest Wagner basses of our time”, according to The Guardian – is a regular guest at Wiener Staatsoper where he has sung more than forty roles. He made his Bayreuth Festival debut as Fafner in Das Rheingold and Siegfried, and he has appeared as Hunding in new Ring Cycles at Bayerische Staatsoper, Wiener Staatsoper, Oper Frankfurt, Lyric Opera of Chicago and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Mr Anger debuted at San Francisco Opera as Pogner in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and is a frequent guest of Deutsche Oper Berlin with whom he also appeared at the BBC Proms in Tannhäuser.
James Gaffigan is described by the New York Times as “one of the rising stars of his generation”. A conductor of both symphony orchestras and opera, he is in his inaugural season as Music Director of the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia, he is Principal Guest Conductor of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra and Opera, and of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also Music Director of the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra, and in the 2023-24 season takes up the position of Music Director of Komische Oper Berlin.
Eugene Onegin – A co-production of the Metropolitan Opera and English National Opera – is presented on April 7th, 10th and 14th. Tickets may be reserved online, and further information is available on the Metropolitan Opera website.
Information sourced from:
Metropolitan Opera program notes