Monday, May 1, 2017

(Or Everything you want to know about love is at the MET OPERA)

Great music and great literature meet on a great stage at the Met Opera’s production of Eugene Onegin on the big screen on April 25, 2017. 

The words are Pushkin’s from his  Russian novel-poem.  The music is by Tchaikovsky  for what he termed “lyrical scenes.”

Tchaikovsky’s music is forever embedded in our consciousness  with his fantasy ballets like  Nutcracker  and Swan Lake.   Pushkin’s work has provided the inspiration for dozens of musical works, including another famous Russian opera, Boris Godunov.   

This team of Tchaikovsky and Pushkin is a sure thing but while there are many scholarly interpretations of Pushkin’s work, there is none that so gets it at its core as this opera.

Using the very words from Pushkin’s poem,  Tchaikovsky built the opera through a series of powerful contrasts.   The main characters and chorus of dancers and singers reflect different sentiments and  life styles from the broad range of rural landowners to  the royal court 

  Act I  — sets up the meeting of the bored elitist Onegin (Peter Mattei) who dismisses  the  love of the idealistic youthful Tatiana (Anna Netrebko) while local  peasants gather at her family home for a traditional celebration.  

 Act II — Neighbors and  landowners gather at a party to celebrate Tatiana’s name day.  The fatal turning point is the duel between Onegin and  his best friend, the poet Lensky (Alexey Dolgov)  over Onegin’s attentions to his flighty girlfriend/Tatiana’s sister, Olga (Elena Maximova). 

 By Act III  — Tatiana has married a real prince (appointed by the tsar for his heroism on  the battlefield), who a relative of Onegin who has been in self-exile since he fatally wounded Lensky.   The  occasion for Onegin and Tatiana’s  emotional re-union is an elegant ball  with  waltzing gentlemen and ladies in fancy dresses.   

Tatiana is now a mature woman, one of the world, but one whose authenticity is intact.  Her youthful passion torments her but she plays by the rules of a married woman true to her husband.  Onegin, now old and broken, reverts to his youthful fantasy, in the despair of a life loss, one spent where everything was dismissed by his weariness with it.  

A  fatalistic fairy tale,  wrapped up in lush music, Eugene Onegin, is a treat for the senses even as it tears one’s heart out.   

But if this seems too sad, do not give up!  

There will be more passionate exchanges and more dancing crowds ahead as the next Met Simulcast performance moves to Vienna, with  Richard’s Strauss’s comic  Der Rosenkavalier  on May 14. 

There will be some tears at the end  of Der Rosenkavalier  but this not because of the lovers on stage  but because for the audience of opera lovers’  this will be Rene Fleming’s farewell opera performance.