Eugene Onegin

This season’s passion continues with the romantic Russian drama Eugene Onegin by Peter Tchaikovsky — a musically sumptuous realization of Alexander Pushkin’s immortal Russian novel in verse.

The reviews:

“Each and every performer presented a jaw-dropping, tear-jerking, stellar production worthy of the best opera houses in the country…. Director David Lefkowich’s minimal staging and Alex Fontain’s set served perfectly to hint at the setting while not distracting from the high level of talent on stage…. The chorus…provid[ed] voice for the delightful and graceful dancers of Eugene Ballet. Every member of the cast fit their role perfectly…. Anton Belov, as Onegin, lent an air of authority to the production…. Jill Gardner is a true diva, and her portrayal of Tatyana rocketed this production from great to exceptional.” — Alison Kaufman (The Register-Guard). Read the full review (may require Register-Guard subscription).

“Beautifully done” — read “All the things I loved about Eugene Onegin tonight” by Bob Keefer (Eugene Art Talk).

The show:

Eugene Onegin was performed at the Hult Center on March 11 and 13, 2016. For a peek at the dress rehearsal on March 9, click on the video below.

The name:

How is “Onegin” pronounced, anyway? This short video explains all. (Hint: sounds like “oh – NAY – gon”)

The story and the music:

Eugene Onegin tells the tale of a man who rejects a young woman’s passionate offer of love, betrays a good and loyal friend, and only later realizes that he himself is the chief victim of his own cold heart.

This celebrated work is “a radiant example of Russian Lyric Opera. A deeply moving tale packed with big tunes, dances, and a heart-stopping duel.” (Opera 101)

“Onegin’s music is nothing if not absolutely sublime…. [Tchaikovsky’s] music goes straight to the heart.” (Houston Press)

Read more and watch stunning video excerpts from this dramatic opera:

Russian Genius (with video synopsis of the opera)

Love Letter (with video)

Learn lots more about Eugene Onegin at this entertaining “Opera 101” site.

The dances:

Dance is an integral element of Eugene Onegin. There are dance scenes in all three acts, from the Peasant Dance in Act 1 to the Polonaise and Ecossaises in Act 3, with a Waltz and Mazurka in between. Eugene Ballet has partnered with Eugene Opera to bring you scintillating dances choreographed by Antonio Anacan, with dancers Cory Betts, Kaori Fukui, Yamil Maldonado, Yoshi Oshima, Sara Stockwell, and Jun Tanabe. Read more about these Eugene Ballet artists here.

The singers:

It takes an outstanding set of artists to take on this beautiful yet demanding work. Audiences will be delighted with this cast, which includes both established and emerging stars, both new and familiar faces.

Soprano Jill Gardner
Soprano Jill Gardner
Baritone Anton Belov
Baritone Anton Belov

Baritone Anton Belov brings his “rich, mellifluous voice” (New York Times) and his “great emotional honesty, singing straight from the heart” (Opera News) to the title role of Eugene Onegin. A native of Russia and a graduate of the Juilliard Opera Center, he has earned critical acclaim for his numerous appearances throughout the United States. As a specialist in Russian lyric diction, he brings multiple talents to the role of Onegin. Click for a short video (from our newsletter).

Soprano Jill Gardner returns to Eugene for her debut as the romantic Tatiana. Noted for her “effortlessly produced, rich voice” (Opera News), she is swiftly establishing herself among today’s leading operatic heroines and continues to garner national praise for her “lustrous, golden soprano and riveting stage presence” (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle) and for “her commitment, passion and ability to convey vocally the slightest nuance of emotion, making for gripping theater” (Opera News). Gardner impressed Eugene audiences as Musetta in La BohemeClick for a short video (from our newsletter).

Amanda Crider
Mezzo Amanda Crider
Tenor Samuel Levine
Tenor Samuel Levine

Samuel Levine (Lensky, Onegin’s ill-fated friend) has emerged as an elegant, robust tenor on the cusp of a major career. His voice is “powerful and fluid” (Hartford Courant) and “eloquent, full-bodied”, “bright-voiced and skillfully-played” (Wall Street Journal). He is currently a candidate for the Artist Diploma in Opera Studies at the Juilliard School.

Mezzo-soprano Amanda Crider (Olga, Tatiana’s sister and Lensky’s love) is quickly gaining recognition for her extraordinary musicality and assured dramatic presence. Praised for her “deep expressivity and impressive stamina” (New York Times) and “focused golden toned voice,” Crider last appeared in Eugene as Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro.

Mezzo Melina Pyron
Mezzo Melina Pyron
Jake Gardner
Bass-baritone Jake Gardner

Bass-baritone Jake Gardner, a “particularly moving and disturbing” (Register-Guard) Judge Turpin in Eugene Opera’s Sweeney Todd, returns as Tatiana’s husband Prince Gremin. Boasting a career which includes performances with major opera companies and orchestras throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, he remains one of the opera world’s most sought-after singing actors for his “splendid voice and commanding presence” (Syracuse Post-Standard). Gardner also recently appeared here as the elder Germont in La Traviata. 

Click for a short video of Samuel Levine, Amanda Crider, and Jake Gardner (from our newsletter).

Mezzo-soprano Melina Pyron sings Madame Larina, the mother of Tatiana and Olga. “Ravishing vocally and visually, she…could step onto almost any opera stage right now” (Chicago Sun-Times). She has worked extensively in the Pacific Northwest, in both opera and concert performances.

Al Villenueva
Tenor Al Villanueva
Karen Esquivel
Contralto Karen Esquivel

The cast also includes Eugene favorites Karen Esquivel, Al Villanueva, Sandy Naishtat, and Timothy McCoy.

Contralto Karen Esquivel returns to the Eugene Opera stage in the role of Tatiana’s nurse and confidant Filippyevna.

Tenor Al Villanueva, last seen on the Eugene Opera stage in the Sweeney Todd Ensemble, appears as Triquet, a French tutor.

Baritone Sandy Naishtat returns to Eugene Opera as Zaretsky, Lensky’s second in the duel.

Baritone Timothy McCoy
Baritone Timothy McCoy
Baritone Sandy Naishtat
Baritone Sandy Naishtat

Baritone Timothy McCoy sings the Company Commander. Look for him at the ball in Act II.

The production is directed by David Lefkowich, an accomplished director whose staging has been praised for “imagination, energy and intensity” (Pioneer Press). Lefkowich also directed Eugene Opera’s Lucia di Lammermoor earlier this season, and The Girl of the Golden West in 2014. His Lucia was stunning. The Register-Guard said:  “Stage director David Lefkowich created beautiful freeze-frame stage pictures that accompanied the lengthy arias for which bel canto opera is known; this prevented the dreaded ‘park and bark’ phenomenon. Lefkowich used the vertical levels of the minimalist set, designed by Alex Fontain, to great effect.” The Register-Guard also praised his “solid stage direction” in The Girl of the Golden West that helped make that production “a hit.”

The Eugene Opera Chorus and Orchestra will perform under the baton of our outstanding Music Director, Andrew Bisantz. Maestro Bisantz was recently praised for his “taut leadership” of Florida Grand Opera’s May 2015 production of Menotti’s opera The Consul, rated the top Florida performance of the year by the South Florida Classical Review.

Related events:

Learn more about Eugene Onegin — both the opera and the novel in verse by Alexander Pushkin — through this series of informative and entertaining events leading up to the performance.

Banner Image: Baritone Anton Belov