The MET Opens With New Production of Eugene Onegin
This new staging replaces the 1997 Robert Carsen beauty of a production that took place on a mostly bare set, and created beautiful minimalist stage pictures, mostly with lights that created a warm palette. This production, by comparison, is positively cluttered. The sets by Tom Pye are handsome and realistic, but ultimately turn out to be boring and anti-dramatic. The colonnade that dominates the last act looks impressive as a quasi-symbol of authority over passion, but their placement restricts the action onstage. The costumes by Chloe Obolensky are authentic to the 19th century, and probably the most successful aspect of the new staging.
The Peter Gelb era has presented some very successful opening night stagings, as well as some infamous duds. I can still hear the boos from the Tosca opening night a few years ago. This production of Eugene Onegin, as well as last year's L'Elisir d'Amore opening night, are throwback to a more conservative Metropolitan Opera. It just could be that Mr. Gelb is tired of opening the house to a chorus of boos from the New York conservative cognoscenti.
The cast looked and sounded glorious. Ms. Netrebko and Mr. Kwiecien make a handsome unrequited love couple. Tenor Piotr Beczala was a fabulous Vladimir Lenski, the starry-eyed, sensitive poet who longs for Tatiana's sister Olga, and who challenges his best friend Onegin to a duel when he feels that the aloof aristocrat is humiliating him publicly by flirting with his love. Down in the pit Valery Gergiev led a vigorous, pensive performance.
This new production may not be the most beautiful jewel on the MET's crown, but it's shiny luster seems to have won over the first night's audience. It needs a superb cast to make it come to life. Fortunately, these days a more than winning cast is setting Lincoln Center's nights on fire. Don't miss them!