Sunday, March 22, 2020

Pre-judging the Met's "Eugene Onegin"

Eugene Onegin, screening tonight free from the Metropolitan Opera, starts out with great promise. The intro is by Mikhail Baryshnikov!

It is good to see him again! He stands there in the middle of the screen and tells you how you are going to fall in love with the opera.

He pronounces it "Ev-gen Onegin."

And it occurs to me for the first time, that the pianist Evgeny Kissin is Eugene Kissin. Or shall we say, Gene Kissin. Like Manny Ax.

Back to Onegin, my one gripe with it so far is that before the overture, you do not get to hear: "Maestro to the pit. Maestro to the pit."

That is one of my favorite moments!

However we still have the entire opera to go so I will forgive this otherwise fatal error. The maestro who should have been audibly called to the pit is Valery Gergiev. The opera stars Renee Fleming as Tatiana and the late Dimitri Hvorostovsky as Onegin. That is sad that we lost him. What a marvelous Russian baritone and so beautiful to look at.

The production's staging looks kind of wacky so far -- a big box of fallen leaves. But as the picture above illustrates, the costumes are lovely. That picture must be from near the end, when Onegin comes crawling back. Cry me a river! Odds are this Russian roulette will turn out well.

I like Tchaikovsky operas the way I prefer most operas, on the traditional side. I once saw "Onegin" live and it struck me like a Chekhov play, hours of an absorbing psychological drama, Russians explaining what is in their hearts. I do not remember being bored. I love this kind of stuff.

You know what, when you play those games of who is overrated and who is underrated, I would say Tchaikovsky is underrated.

Once when I saw "The Queen of Spades" I screamed! It was one of the most terrifying moments. My sister-in-law, Natalie, was with me. We grabbed each other and screamed. The whole audience did likewise.

Bravo, Tchaikovsky!

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