Friday, March 14, 2014


Nicole Car as Tatyana
Artists of Opera Australia.
Opera Australia

Sydney Opera House until 28th March 2014.

Melbourne April 16 - May 9th

Reviewed by Bill Stephens


Tchaikovsky’s glorious music, beautifully interpreted by the Australian Opera and ballet orchestra under the baton of Gillaume Tourniaire, and superbly sung by a cast of outstanding singers is reason enough to see this opera.

Nicole Car is perfectly cast as Tatyana. Not only does she look beautiful, and sing gloriously, but she also has the acting ability to make totally convincing her overwhelming attraction for the mysterious Onegin, and her devastation when her declarations of love are ultimately rejected by Onegin.

Sian Pendry as Olga - James Egglestone as Lensky.
Sian Pendry was also impressive as her scatty and impetuous sister, Olga, whose fiancĂ© Lensky, a fine performance by James Egglestone, is needlessly killed by Onegin in a duel.

Despite singing superbly throughout, Dalibor Jenis proved a rather dour Onegin, much given to skulking behind pillars, making his attraction for the beautiful Tatyana a little hard to believe. He was not helped by the fact that he was often required to share the stage with his younger self, a dashing and handsome dancer, Sam Colbey.

Nicole Car  (Tatyana) - Dalibor Jenis (Eugene Onegin)
Though appearing a little young as Tatyana’s mother Dominica Matthews gave a well-sung and interestingly acted performance. Kanen Breen, as always, made the role of the French tutor, Triquet, memorable, and Jonathan McCauley, Jacqueline Dark, and Adrian Tamburini, all provided strong support. Konstantin Gorny as Prince Gremlin was a commanding presence and his aria provided one of the particularly memorable moments of the production.  

Nicole Carr (Tatyana) - Konstantin Gorny (Prince Gremlin) 
Not so satisfactory however was the direction of Kasper Holten who managed to turn a relatively simple story into something perplexing and confusing. It was clear from photographs printed in the program that the sets had had to be compromised to fit onto the Sydney opera house stage. This  may have accounted for why the setting became so claustrophobic as the opera wore on. Not having the space available to him may also have compromised the director’s original vision.

Whatever the reasons, besides having to cope with two Tatyanas (dancer Emily Ranford charmingly played the young Tatyana) and two Onegins, there was the ever-accumulating detritus of the character’s past lives cluttering the stage, commencing with a letter thrown away by Tatyana, her scattered books, a broken chair hurled across the ballroom by Lensky, the branch of a tree occupied by Lensky before his death in the duel, and finally Lensky’s body which stayed on stage after he was killed, all of which had to be negotiated by the characters in later scenes.

There was also the rather extraordinary choreography of Signe Fabricius, which made nonsense of the magnificent waltz in the ballroom scene, and later, in a curious interlude which had the dancers hanging off Onegin or laying around the stage with their bottoms in the air.

While most of the symbolism was easily grasped, it also felt unnecessary, distracting and intrusive so that that much of the opera was spent trying to make sense of what was being seen on stage rather than luxuriating in Tchaikovsky’s glorious music.
                                                       All images by Lisa Tomasetti.



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