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  • Lyric Scenes by Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky
  •  2nd of February 2019, St John’s College,
  • The Soloists and The Oxford Alternative Orchestra
  • Music Director: Hannah Schneider
  • Director: Sean Kelly 

A review by Alicja Zurawska Music Editor Oxfordprospect

Copyright: bulgarin / 123RF Stock Photo
Eugene Onegin opera

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is one of the greatest Russian composers of the 19th century. We know him mainly for his symphonies, concerts and also ballets like Swan Lake or the Nutcracker. However, this outstanding work is the opera Eugene Onegin, based on the poem of Alexander Pushkin. The first performance took place on 29th of March 1879     in Moscow Small Theater and is still performed today in major opera houses worldwide.

What a phenomenon! Its emotions, unrequited friendship, love, jealousy- that we meet in our life and when we are watching this opera, we can find the part of ourselves. 

The main heroines of this opera are Olga and Tatiana. Olga is the bride of Lensky. While Tatiana falls in love with his friend – Onegin and writes a letter to him, in which she confesses her feelings to him. But he reciprocates her feelings. During a ball in the house by Olga and Tatiana, Onegin to annoy everyone adores Olga, when Lensky comes out of himself with envy. It comes to the duel between them and Lensky falls dead from a shot.  Onegin after years of exile is coming back to Russia and arrives at the ball of Prince Gremin where his wife recognises as Tatiana. Oniegin realises that he loves her and he begs her to give him back his love, but for Tatiana assembled vows are more important than the voice of her heart. She rejects Onegin forever. When he stays alone, he curses his fate.

The performance took place in the Auditorium of St. Johns College, which was a small place with good acoustics. The orchestra was seated between the stage and the audience (close to singers) and my first concern was that the soloists would be drowned out by the orchestra, and unfortunately, this is what happened. What does not change is the fact that the orchestra played smoothly and at a good level and the conductor Hannah Schneider pursued a whole hand, adjusting to changes in the music’s nature.The drama was presented in seven scenes, in which each of the singers could show their best side. 

Jack Holton (Onegin) was a perfect reflection of his hero: demonstrating a very good vocal technique and acting. Fortunately, he had the advantage of having a heroic persona and having a beautiful, deep, baritone voice. 
Alexandria Wreggelsworth is an American soprano with a great stage presence, which you can see on the stage. She is a beautiful, lyrical soprano, which perfectly to fits in the form of Tatiana. . I was waiting impatiently for the scene of writing a letter to Onegin and the only note mine is, that the heroine’s dilemmas in this part, could be shown distinctly.

Dominic Behan is another singer who has presented to the public during this evening. I really liked his maturity, determination, confidence, confident he knows what he is doing on the stage. He has a light, tenor voice, which was opposite to the deep and low voice of Onegin.

Grace Lovelass (Olga) founds herself in each scene. She was a beloved sister of Tatiana, an exemplary bride of Lensky and even an “object of desire” of Onegin (prom scene). Unfortunately, how the singer pronounced the Russian words, made it difficult to understand.
As for the rest of the cast (Madame Larina, Nurse, Captain Zaretsky, Prince Gremin and Choir) created integrity to accompany the main heroes and highlighting emotions, included in this opera.

As for the costumes, they fulfilled their roles, showing an era, in which took place the opera and the dance elements enriched the present. Scenography can help a lot in developing this type of performances, but in this case was very simple. Were used of everyday furniture type: chair or table, so point of the view was based mainly on singers and accompanying actions. A good idea was prompter, translating the story from Russian to English, but the position (on the side of the stage), made it difficult for some spectators.                                                            

Summarising, this event was successful and entertaining. It involved many young and talented artists in this performance. I’m glad I can be their witness and experience opera art with them.

Director: Sean Kelly 
Music Director: Hannah Schneider 
Producer: Ben Gregson 
Production Manager: Sasha Rassmusen

Eugene Onegin: Jack Holton 
Tatiana Larina: Alexandria Wreggelsworth 
Vladimir Lensky: Dominic Bevan 
Olga Larina: Grace Lovelass

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