Friday, April 27, 2007

Eugene Onegin: Part One, Sets and Singers

Dear Anne GG, cadh8, Kay, Elaine, Amy, and Other Lovers of Opera,

The other night I was flipping channels. (Well, let's be real, my husband was flipping channels. I personally have never actually held the remote control.) However, he flipped to PBS and I said, "STOP!" with undeniable firmness. Since I rarely react that strongly to TV programming, he stopped. And he immediately knew, that the die had been cast for the next few hours of viewing. It was an opera.

Opera trumps Law and Order, opera trumps The Office, opera trumps American Idol, opera trumps all.

The work was one this year's Metropolitan Opera TV features, Eugene Onegin.

I loved this opera. (I know, I say this after almost every opera.) But this production had it all. The singers were fabulous and one did not outshine the others.
Renee Fleming, one of the current reigning divas was great as Tatiana.
Dmitri Hvorostovski as Onegin(As Seinfeld would say, "I can't say it, but I think it's spelled like the symbol for Argon.")
Ramon Vargas as Lenski--This guy has an amazing voice.

I won't say any more about the singers, but it was joyful to hear them. Here are some pix and then I want to talk about the amazing minimalist sets.

The sets were bare, except for a few devices, a sweet minimalism. Some of the scenes used leaves as the only props with enormous walls edging the stage. One scene began with a chorus (excellent vocals) of women sweeping leaves. They began in center stage and swept a perfect oval. By the time they exited the oval of open floor had been prepared for the entrance of Tatiana and Onegin. Impressive. Several of the scenes surrounded the action with a rectangle of chairs. In the ball scene the wooden chairs, each different with delicate, open-worked backs, embraced the crowded dance floor. It was like the baby bear's porridge.

The Onegin story was written by Pushkin--Opera by Tchaikovsky. I really need to read the Pushkin story and then comment about it. It fits in with some things I've been contemplating about moral choice. And I'd like to compare the poetic artistry of the Pushkin work with the musical artistry of the composition by Tchaikovsky. The primary defining feature of Pushkn's writing in this work is that it is almost entirely written in verses of iambic tetrameter with the unusual rhyme scheme "aBaBccDDeFFeGG", where the lowercase letters represent feminine rhymes while the uppercase letters represent masculine rhymes. This form has become known as the "Onegin stanza" (or "Pushkin sonnet"). Is that amazing or what?

Betsy aka Mom

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