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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Operas by Tchaikovsky on DVD/Blu-ray/CD

    Mazeppa (1881-1883, premiered, 1884)

    Kirov Orchestra and Ballet, Valery Gergiev; 1996 production.



    Tchaikovsky wrote Mazeppa after Eugene Onegin and The Maid of Orleans, which showed he had several belts of opera experience. Whether or not this came through with Mazeppa can perhaps be anyone's opinion. I certainly think he probably did because Mazeppa was a masterpiece. I was carried through by the very strong orchestration of the vocal numbers and also the orchestral ones, such as the sumptuous dance suite (if you can call it that) during Act 1. Although according to the notes, Tchaikovsky even wrote a letter stating he wasn't really into the characters and took him considerable effort over two years to compose this, none of that showed. Many of the arias were of the vengeful type; characters bent on seeking revenge, raging, approving executions, going insane etc. and these numbers were strongly characterised by the music.

    The staging, as one might expect from the heart of Russia, was thoroughly traditional. One got the feeling that very little had probably changed in terms of staging philosophy and artistic direction, perhaps since the one hundred years since its premiere and this recorded production. A beautiful, solid and no frivolity production that did what the plot and numbers wanted.

    The only weak aspect might be the plot. An old king/aristocrat (representing the Tsar) was invited to another kingdom and during the evening's welcoming festivities, wanted the hand of the daughter of the host for marriage, though old enough to be her grandfather. All hell broke loose as a result. But the music strongly characterised it, beautiful staging, a strong cast and orchestra, and so who really cares? Only enjoyment!

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Operas by Tchaikovsky on DVD/Blu-ray/CD

    Tchaikovksy: The Maid of Orleans on DVD


    The Maid of Orleans, opera in four acts, sung in Russian (premiered in 1881 at the Mariinsky)
    Music and libretto by Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), after Schiller's play and other sources of the same story (Barbier, Mermet, Wallon)

    1993 - Alexander Lazarev conducts the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra and Chorus.
    Stage director Boris Pokrovsky. This is a film of a fully staged performance but without the public. TV direction is by Brian Large.

    Cast:

    Nina Rautio (Joan of Arc), Oleg Kulko (King Charles II), Mariya Gavrilova (Agnes Sorel), Mikhail Krutikov (Dunois), Vladimir Redkin (Lionel), Gleb Nikolsky (Archbishop), Arkady Mishenkin (Raymond), Maksim Mikhaylov II (Bertrand), Anatoly Babikin (Soldier), Zoya Smolyanikova (Angel), Vyacheslav Pochapsky (Thibaut)

    Kultur Video 2005 DVD release, NTSC, 1.33:1, no choice of soundtrack other than stereo. Sharp image and very good sound. Optional subtitles in seven languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Italian. No extras. Bare-bones product with no liner notes other than a list of chapters.

    There is no competition for this opera on DVD, as of the date of this review.

    Here we have an old-fashioned performance with stock acting like is usually the case for these old Russian productions. It is done in traditional costumes, of a rather simple kind (but tasteful). Staging is unobtrusive and relatively sparse for the Bolshoi standards. There are banners reproducing 15th century paintings, the chorus sings from several platforms on stage linked by flights of stairs, there are chandeliers and flags, decorative elements (for example mimicking a cathedral) fall from the top, modifying the scenarios; it is all actually quite beautiful and solemn. At times one seems to be watching an oratorio (especially when the chorus comes forward).

    Singing is uneven. Nina Rautio is not attractive and is not a gifted actress but she surely can sing, with a big, full dramatic voice. Her male counterparts as far as the baritones and basses are concerned do the usual good job of Russian singers in these Bolshoi productions. The tenor doing the king however is weak, and so is the soprano doing Agnes (she is cute, though).

    The orchestra masters well the material and the sounds are beautiful.

    Both the vocal writing and the orchestration are very exquisite and melodious. This is only my third Tchaikovsky opera (up to this point I was only familiar with Eugene Onegin and Pique Dame), and it sounds very different from the other two: much less Russian, much more French; it approaches a lot more the Grand Opéra style than the more authentically Russian material that we're used to hear from Tchaikovsky and even more from other Russian composers.

    It's all very beautiful but the static, almost non-existing acting, risks a certain monotony and boredom (especially in this recording without the public - it all seems a bit canned). This is the kind of opera that could benefit from a modern revival since it is musically very enticing.

    I'll say recommended (especially in the absence of competition, and given the good musical values - orchestra, lead singer, and most male singers - and good sound/image).
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Has anyone here seen this? Pique Dame




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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    Has anyone here seen this? Pique Dame



    ooh yes, lots of times. I thought it was pretty good, loved Ewa Podles as the raddled old countess (although hard to believe she had ever been a beauty, unlike Elizabeth Soderstrom in the Met version. A fairly straight telling.

    umm just one little thing - I might have been slightly influenced by the dashingness of Misha Didyk.
    Natalie

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  7. #5
    Schigolch
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    Operas by Tchaikovsky on DVD/Blu-ray/CD



    Conductor- Vassily Nebolsin, Moscow 1936


    Onegin - Panteleimon Nortsov
    Lensky - Sergei Lemeshev
    Tatyana - Glafira Joukovskaya
    Olga - Bronislava Zlatogorova
    Larina - Maria Boutienina
    Filipyevna - Konkordiya Antarova
    Gremin - Alexander Pirogov
    Triquet - Ivan Kovalenko

    This is the first recorded Onegin, and a worthy candidate to be also the best.

    Everything sounds here fresh and new. The lively tempi (sometimes a little bit too lively) used by Nebolsin contributing a lot to this impression, but also the young and unearthly beautiful voice of a wonderful Lemeshev, the absolute reference as Lensky. With such a singer, you pray it was Onegin, and not Lensky, the victim at the duel. And is not that Nortsov is a weak Onegin, far from it. His is a solid performance, it just belongs to a human kingdom, instead of to the Heavens. Joukovskaya is a properly romantic Tatyana, with a great 'Letter' scene. The lower voices are appropriate, with an outstanding Pirogov, such a noble and powerful bass, but that can also be so delicate while mentioning how he loves her young wife.

    The sound, while it's not bad for a 1936 take, is not a strong point for this recording.

    Overall: A


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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    That's interesting because Eugene Onegin premiered in 1879, only about 60 earlier than the above recording. I doubt much would have changed in terms of performance practice spanning between the premiere and what was recorded above, both in the same city.

  9. #7
    Schigolch
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    Conductor- Alexander Melik-Pachaïev, Moscow 1937

    Onegin - Panteleimon Nortsov
    Lensky - Ivan Kozlovsky
    Tatyana - Elena Krouglikova
    Olga - Elisabeta Antonova
    Larina - Ludmila Roudnivskaya
    Filipyevna - Vera Makarova
    Gremin - Maxim Mikhailov
    Triquet - Sergei Ostrokumov

    In the 1930s there was an incredible rivalry between Sergei Lemeshev and Ivan Kozlovsky. Both were the biggest stars of the Bolshoi Opera, and they had a big number of followers. It was logical that after Lemeshev's recording, there were one with Kozlovsky. The only point in common was Nortsov, that offers again a solid, if unexciting, Onegin. Kozlovsky's Lensky is not the equal of Lemeshev's, not by any means, but it's a very good one, nonetheless. The weakest point is Krouglikova's Tatyana, a beautiful voice, but it sounds too mature for the role. Something similar could be said about Mikhailov, that delivers a properly aged Gremin, but somehow we are missing his love for Tatyana. Melik-Pachaïev's conducting is perhaps too mechanic.

    Overall: B

    Let's hear to Ivan Kozlovsky singing Lensky:


  10. #8
    Schigolch
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    That's interesting because Eugene Onegin premiered in 1879, only about 60 earlier than the above recording. I doubt much would have changed in terms of performance practice spanning between the premiere and what was recorded above, both in the same city.
    In fact, it was in all likelihood much better, in terms of singing.

    There was a fantastic school of singing in Russia, that started with the visit and teachings of the best Italian singers of the late 19th century, notably Mattia Battistini, and the work of the two big Opera theaters (Mariinsky in San Petersburg and Bolshoi in Moscow), that bore fruit, a really wonderful fruit, since the early 20th century, with the great tenors of Imperial Russia. This golden age extended until well into the 1950s.

  11. #9
    Schigolch
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    Conductor - Boris Khiakin, Moscow 1956

    Onegin - Eugene Belov
    Lensky - Sergei Lemeshev
    Tatyana - Galina Vishnevskaya
    Olga - Larissa Avdeyeva
    Larina - Valentina Petrova
    Filipyevna - Eugenia Verbitskaya
    Gremin - Ivan Petrov
    Triquet - Andrei Sokolov


    A dream take, one of those that really are at the top of operatic recordings. The sound is good enough, and Khiakin is handling his singers very well, though not delivering all the orchestral subtleties. Eugene Belov sings a beautiful Onegin. Yes, perhaps a little bit too beautiful, we are missing something of the dark side of the character here, but this is superb singing. Vishnevskaya, with her luminous voice and her fresh timbre is the perfect portrait of the young and dreamy Tatyana, and she also moves with the character to become a noble and all-for-duty lady in the last Act. Avdeyeva is arguably the best Olga ever, and Petrov is rock solid as Gremin. What can we say about Lemeshev? Twenty years after his first recorded Onegin, close to sixty years old, after losing one lung and having some problems with alcohol, he still has that voice, and can transmit that emotion with his singing.

    Overall: A+


  12. #10
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    A non-Russian recordings:



    Conductor, James Levine, Dresden 1989
    Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle
    Chorus, Leipzig Radio Chorus

    Onegin - Thomas Allen
    Tatyana - Mirella Freni
    Lensky - Neil Schicoff
    Olga - Anne Sophie von Otter
    Gremin - Paata Burchuladze

    Jimmy Levine here is maybe a little overenthusiastic and his conducting is a bit flashy, lacking the solemn overtones that Onegin sometimes requires in the more melancholic parts. But it is certainly exciting. Allen does an excellent job, and it is curious to see an Italianate soprano like Freni doing Tatyana; she clearly brings some energy to the role, and is able to show both youth (in spite of her age at this time) in the first act and maturity in the third. While I'm not the greatest of Schicoff's fans, I do recognize that sometimes he can be very effective, and here, he is. Burchuladze is a very fine Gremin.

    What makes or breaks this recording is - do we want our Eugene Onegin to be ponderous, or do we want it lively? I'd be for the former so this is not my preferred recording, but then, it's a welcome variation.

    Overall: C
    Last edited by Soave_Fanciulla; September 14th, 2016 at 03:31 AM. Reason: Corrected typo
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  13. #11
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    And then there's this one, a hybrid, half Russian, half Western:


    Conductor, Semyon Bychkov, 1990
    Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris
    Chorus, St. Petersburg Chamber Chorus

    Onegin - Dmitri Hvorostovsky
    Tatyana - Nuccia Focile
    Lensky - Neil Schicoff
    Olga - Olga Borodina
    Gremin - Alexander Anisimov

    This one is OK, folks. Hvorostovsky sings a decent Onegin, and Focile, like Freni, impacts some gentle Italianate interpretation on the young girl. Schicoff repeats the good job I've commented upon upstairs, and the conducting, unlike Levine's exhuberance, is restrained, thoughtful, and sad. Sound quality is very good. I like this one better than the previous one.

    Overall: B
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  14. #12
    Schigolch
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    Conductor - Georg Solti, London 1975

    Onegin - Bernd Weikl
    Lensky - Stuart Burrows
    Tatyana - Teresa Kubiak
    Olga - Julia Hamari
    Larina - Anna Reynolds
    Filipyevna - Enid Hartle
    Gremin - Nicolai Ghiaurov
    Triquet - Michel Sénéchal


    This was the first version in Russian, with non native singers. Mr. Solti gets a superb sound out of the Royal Opera House orchestra, but all the performance is rather cold, not very Romantic. Kubiak was an intelligent soprano, but she is lacking the vocal means to give the role its full due. Weikl is too detached, more an English than a Russian character, while Stuart Burrows just sing the notes. Ghiaurov is always himself, perhaps the best thing in this recording, with the very funny Sénéchal. The other females roles are not really well served.

    Overall: C


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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Tchaikovsky: Cherevichki (The Tsarina's Slippers) on Blu-ray

    Cherevichki, Opera in four acts - premiered on 31 January 1887, at the Bolshoy in Moscow. Sung in Russian.
    Music by Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
    Libretto by Yakov Polonsky, Nikolay Chayev, and Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky, after Nikolay Gogol's short story Christmans Eve



    Conductor Alexander Polianichko, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
    Royal Opera Chorus
    Dancers of The Royal Ballet

    Director Francesca Zambello
    Set Designs Mikhail Mokrov
    Costumes Tatiana Noginova
    Choreography Alastair Marriott

    Cast

    Oxana - Olga Guryakova
    Vakula - Vsevolod Grivnov
    Solokha - Larissa Diadkova
    Chub - Vladimir Matorin
    The Devil - Maxim Mikhailov
    The Schoolmaster - viacheslav Voynarovsky
    Pan Golova - Alexander Vassiliev
    Panas - John Upperton
    His Highness - Sergei Leiferkus
    Master of Ceremonies - Jeremy White
    Odarka - Olga Sabadoch
    Wood Goblin - Changhan Lim
    Echo - Andrew Mcnair

    Principal Dancers - Mara Galeazzi, Gary Avis

    Live Composite recording at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, on 23 and 28 November 2009
    Film Director Jonathan Haswell

    Co-production BBC/Royal Opera House
    Released on DVD and blu-ray by Opus Arte, 2010

    1080i HD Blu-ray, 16:9, LPCM Stereo, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 - Sound and image, perfect
    Running time 155 minutes. Optional subtitles in English, French, German, and Spanish
    Liner Notes - Essay and Synopsis in English, French, and German. Chapter list with number names in Russian and English translation; times; but no character names. Production photos in color.

    Extra features:
    Introduction
    Cast and Characters
    Staging Gogol's World
    Cast gallery

    --------

    This opera was Tchaikovsky's favorite. The title has been translated in various ways, through revisions by the composer himself and production team's preference. The earlier version was called Vakula the Smith; then The Caprices of Oxana, and later Cherevichki, which has been translated as The Fancy Slippers, but was re-interpreted by the Royal Opera House as The Tsarina's Slippers.

    The first version Vakula the Smith (1876) was a failure, and Tchaikovsky was heartbroken. He reworked it extensively, and re-premiered it in 1887, conducted by himself. He kept tweaking it later.

    From the liner notes and extras we learn that this staging had as concept: the attempt to be faithful the Gogol's naive folk style in this particular short story, with a mix of fantasy and reality - it's Gogol the fantasy weaver, not Gogol the sarcastic and ironic of his major works. Great pains were taken for authenticity, including getting genuine Ukranian boots and accurate folk costumes, as well as carefully choreographic Cossack dancing. The sets reproduce naive Ukranian paintings (see cover picture for an example). It's a comic work with lots of surrealism and absurdism.

    ----------

    Very beautiful overture. Set designs are very cute, props are peculiar, costumes are colorful and interesting. Stage dynamics are very good, with well choreographed motion.

    The first two numbers are delightful - a flirtatious and witty dialogue between Solokha the witch and her love interest, none other than the Devil himself (in a hilarious costume). It's all lively and with nice rhythm and pace. They are good actors and more than correct singers, especially Ms. Larissa Diadkova.

    What follows is a long arioso used by the Devil to tell various elements of the story and all his plans to take revenge on the village's blacksmith Vikula, who painted a mocking picture of him on the wall of the church.

    Several succesful staging effects ensue, with the sets changing in various ways using a variety of naive paintings and devices that make me remember of some baroque sets used by Les Arts Florissants for Rameau's operas. All very gorgeous and nice!

    This is the kind of production one watches with a permanent smile on one's face. I think I'm in for a treat.

    The orchestra is lush and vibrant. The music is beautiful and very well planned to match and illustrate the action. So far, I don't understand why this opera and this production don't usually get very high marks among fans. We'll see, but so far so good.

    ----

    OK, first negative element - leading soprano Ms. Olga Guryakova's looks, while not offensive, are a far cry from the standard of beauty we've grown accustomed to, in the matter of Russian sopranos. Her singing is defective here, clearly. She seems to have a light voice and she appears overwhelmed by the orchestra, feels compelled to push too hard, and the result is a top that is quite muddled and shrill. Her timbre is not that beautiful either. Hey, Royal Opera House, you have heard of a nice soprano called Anna Netrebko, haven't you?

    Anyway, Ms. Guryakova's acting is not bad, and one thinks that she'd be doing better in a lighter repertory - the vocal writing for Oxana seems very difficult.

    Her mate Vsevolod Grivnov in the role of Vakula fares a little better, but not much better. Same problem, he needs to yell on top of the orchestra to be heard. The timbre is more beautiful, his sound is more pleasant. But I wonder if he'll survive the four acts, having to force himself like this.

    Chub, Oxana's father, is sung by a good traditional Russian bass in the person of Vladimir Matorin, no complaints there.

    OK, this spells trouble - in the duet at the end of act 1, Mr. Grivnov is already failing. His voice is not as strong as at the beginning of the scene. He seems really outmatched here - again, might be more suited for Belcanto. Oxana ends the act, not doing so well. Applause is very subdued. Apparently the Covent Garden patrons know what they're getting and are not very thrilled with the singing, and they shouldn't be.

    ----------

    Act II opens well, since it recovers the two best singers/actors so far, the witch and the Devil. They engage in more funny dialogue and lively dancing. These two are really stealing the show.

    The mayor Pan Golova comes in. Another deficient singer. He's a bass with problems in the bottom of his range. Next is the Schoolmaster, a tenor. Not bad, he's got a sort of funny voice. One wouldn't want to hear him in Italianate lyric opera (the voice is kind of rough and unpolished), but here in this comic role he's doing well, the rustic voice adds to the comic effect.

    Then Chub comes in and it is nice to see two good singers interacting here. The scene is theatrically good and very funny. The next number sees Vakula doing better again, while he hauls the four sacs. He has used well the break between this one and his previous aria, to rest his voice.

    Big chorus number is next, full of color and beautiful costumes and props. Second act ends well, with good comedic effect. The music seems to have faltered a bit and is less compelling than earlier in the opera.

    So far, B+ or B. I need a break.

    --------

    Act 3 opens with one of the things Tchaikovsky does best: a ballet. The sets are terrific, very beautiful. Water nymphs, Wood Goblin - the former, dancers from the Royal Ballet (nice), and the Goblin is a good singer. The public applauds more strongly for the first time.

    Vakula murders his next aria, with poor pitch control. One wonders why the ROH invested so much in this beautiful production, but hired such an uneven cast. Are these people touring from the Bolshoi? If yes, they sent their second stringers to London.

    His Highness - beautiful voice but too wide a vibrato, which gets slow and unpleasant.

    Props in this scene are very nice, golden pieces recreating the St. Petersburg palace.

    Then we get a classical Russian dance and Cossack dance, all performed by the Royal Ballet, with sort of mixed results, it's a bit anemic.

    Again, beautiful sets opening act IV, and we get excellent singer Diadkova again, with not-as-good Guryakova, in a nice duet. From this point on it's all joy, with nice uplifting chorus with colorful sets. Oxana and Vikula get married, all ends well. Curtain.

    Technical quality, packaging = 10
    Staging (dynamics, concept, sets, costumes) = 10
    Orchestra, conducting = 9 (mostly excellent, but a bit slow in some passages)
    Singing = 6 (very uneven)
    Acting, dance numbers, choreography = 7
    The opera itself = 8 (well, this is entertaining and nice but it is not Eugene Onegin or Pique Dame, folks - the music has some high points, but is kind of mundane at other points; and theatrically speaking, it's funny enough but some parts drag on for too long).

    Nice final touch - the orchestra keeps playing through the curtain calls.

    Average, 8.3 out of 10, or in other words, B

    Is it recommended? It's entertaining, but optional. Could have been a lot better with better singers. Recommended for those with disposable income, but definitely not essential.

    Available from Amazon.com [here] for $26.68, a reasonable price for the entertainment provided.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); March 28th, 2012 at 01:39 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  16. #14
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Thanks, Alma. Nice read. I have a copy too - still wrapped in clear plastic!

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  18. #15
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    A new Eugene Onegin with rising star Kristine Opolais, this is a visually dazzling fancyful production that succeeds on many levels well worth owning yet ultimately does not surpass the famous MET Renee Fleming version overall

    Let me say up front EO is not one of my favorite operas, it does have the two hugely popular dance themes, act 2 waltz and act 3 polonaise that everyone know and loves but the unfullfilled love story never made much sense to me and the singing I find much less inspired than the musics two famous dance themes

    Visually this is big success with some clever effects and dazzling scences, especially during dance scences. The Act 3 polonaise dance scence taking place later in Tatyanas life after she has married another man is a real visual feast with a parade of strange strange colorful characters from Rocky Horror picture show casting and Opolais gliding across the floor in stylized rigid pose wearing hot pink gown and cigarette holder.....very iconic figure and now for Onegin ironically the unattainable object of desire

    For most of this production Tatyana is distant and detached almost in a daze, sometimes even moving in slow motion, only during final rejection of Onegin did some real passion and emotional fire emerge. Contrast this to famous Fleming version where Tatyana is much more human and emotional like you would expect a normal woman to react......

    I must mention the bizarre bald man ghost character in all white that appears in many scences, I can figure no logical reason why he is present in the opera. Has no spoken words or singing, just gets kinda annoying standing around acting important sometimes even directing events. Then this arrogant ghost gets a top position in curtain call taking long bow like he really did something important lapping up the applause........NOT!


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