Arts

Scottish Opera's Eugene Onegin gives an outstanding account of the Russian soul

Samuel Dale Johnson as Onegin and Natalya Romaniw as Tatyana in Scottish Opera's production of Eugene Onegin at the Grand Opera House, Belfast Picture: James Glossop
Jane Hardy

REVIEW

Eugene Onegin

Grand Opera House

Belfast

THE melancholy of the Russian soul is something to behold. Yesterday, on the hottest night of the year at the Grand Opera House, the Scottish Opera production of Eugene Onegin gave us an outstanding account of it. We saw love, loss, passion and heard some of the most Romantic music ever written, including a wonderfully robust account of the famous bittersweet waltz under conductor Stuart Stratford.

But to the story. With handy surtitles and Pushkin’s story sung in Russian, the audience gained an insight into the disease model of love. Tatyana (glorious soprano Natalya Romaniv) falls in love with our dashing eponymous hero (well played by baritone Samuel Dale Johnson whom you could imagine twirling his moustache). He, the foolish cad, rejects her innocent declaration, even lecturing her on propriety.

Roll on the years and, yes, he falls for her but by this time the princess, now half of a genuine 19th century power couple, has to refuse his advances.

Although, as this is a piece dating from the same era as the Brontes, she is sorely tempted.

The couple’s duet, full of unsatisfied longing and lust, was beautifully sung and acted. “So close” they intoned, but the so far subtext won out, even though Onegin was literally on the floor with grief.

In fact, the physical account of this passionate piece was impressive under director Oliver Mears, the former director of Opera NI. Mears is now opera director at the Royal Opera House and a bit of a wunderkind. He threw in a bare male torso and did clever things in the ball scene via the silhouetted chorus.

With Ashley Page as the choreographer, they achieved a real sense of the beating hearts under the period costume.

Apparently, there’s a German saying that if a director is unsure, he throws in the dry ice. There was undoubtedly quite a bit of mist and with a single set, the production was a touch slow at the start. But by the time things got going, it sang. See it if you can.

:: Eugene Onegin with Scottish Opera, on until June 30 at the Grand Opera House, Belfast; for booking see goh.co.uk

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