On the Met’s Eugene Onegin

First of all, before people to whom I owe money get annoyed, I didn’t actually go to the Metropolitan Opera in New York. I saw it live in HD in a cinema in Northampton. It was relatively cheap, I had the best view and I ate pop corn.

The story in Eugene Onegin is very close to my heart as it was first read to me when I was very small by my grandmother, who at the time was a teacher of Russian literature and a huge fan of Pushkin. I then had to study it at school as it is (rightly so) compulsory in Russian state schools. When I read it after finishing university in England, I fell in love with it all over again and saw it in a completely different light. Needless to say, my expectations of this production were high.

The story, (which if you haven’t read, you must) is an incredible tribute to mistimed love, friendship, selfishness and the way we view ourselves in society. The music by Tchaikovsky is magical and makes all those emotions even more powerful. It isn’t a happy story but you feel like a better stronger refreshed person after this viewing. I went to see it with someone who never read Pushkin before, or seen an opera for that matter, and he completely fell in love with it too.

The only happy character in the story is called, like me, Olga, yet I hope to be a complete opposite of her in my life. If I ever resemble her, shoot me. My favourite character has always been Tatiana, here played by Anna Netrebko. Everyone who ever mentions her name gets a crazy look in their eyes and repeatedly tells you how brilliant she is. I get wierded out when people do that. Alas, after seeing her performance I am now one of those people. She is fantastic! Amazing strong voice, incredible acting skills.. She was Tatiana! A difficult character so loved and cherished – she nailed it!

Mariusz Kwiecien, who played Onegin had a surprising performance. Whenever I saw Onegin before, he was always played as a very arrogant person. Often that arrogance was exaggerating to make the point (but that’s our Onegin, huh). Kwiecen takes a different approach and plays him simply as a very very bored young man (which of course he is in the book.) That actually turns out to be a much more powerful way to play him as doing something bad out of boredom rather than arrogance somehow makes it so much worse.

However, the best performance in the whole opera, without a doubt, was Piotr Beczala, playing Lenski. All I can say is that his charm, his voice, his charm completely disarmed me. Perhaps I am biased as he sang ‘I love you Olga’ repeatedly and flattery does work wonders.

Overall, it was a wonderful production with great cast that met and exceeded my expectations.
I will gladly give it 5 stars. And some extra points for enabling me to eat popcorn while live opera. Which was also delicious.


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