Eugene Onegin. Salzburg Festival 2007. Director: Andrea Breth. Cast: Peter Mattei (Eugene Onegin), Anna Samuil (Tatiana), Ekaterina Gubanova (Olga), Joseph Kaiser (Lenski), Ferruccio Furlanetto (Gremin). Conductor: Daniel Barenboim with the Vienna Philharmonics. Further information here.
Just as it seemed the Metropolitan Opera had released the ultimate Eugene Onegin DVD earlier this year, it is seriously challanged by the release of Andrea Breth´s production from last years Salzburg Festival conducted by Daniel Barenboim.
The enourmous stage of the Grosse Festspielhaus in Salzburg is utilized to the maximum with a revolving circular stage and in fact, I find Andrea Breth´s glittering-dark staging near-ideal.
Updated to the middle of this century, Eugene Onegin is set on an estate in an unspecified location with more than an added touch of psychoanalysis. The opening is bizarre: Male workers submissively queue up to have their heads shaved by Madame Larina on the estate. This pattern continues: In Andrea Breth´s Eugene Onegin, the women are in charge: Olga is the one taking the initiatives with Lenski and surely she won’t suffer long after his death. And though Onegin initially rejects Tatiana, he is clearly the weaker character of the two. A playboy at heart, he is pushed around and she is right to finally reject him as he is bad news. Even the old nurse Filipevna pops up eerily in the corner from time to time. The changing images of woods and interiors made possible by the circular stage are simply superb and futhermore Andrea Breth´s individual characterizations are excellent.
Anna Samuil has a very distinct and immediately recognizable clear soprano and though she may occasionally seem slightly limited in expression, both vocally and dramatically, as this Tatiana she is very convincing, not least in the letter scene.
Peter Mattei is the modern Onegin, in splendid voice and fittingly cool acting. Ekaterina Gubanova is a rich-voiced Olga compared to whom Joseph Kaiser is more anonymous, but nevertheless more than adequate Lenski. Ferruccio Furlanetto convincingly delivers his one aria.
Daniel Barenboim with the Vienna Philharmonics is even better than Gergiev at the MET, in a far more subtle, yet sumptuous reading. But make no mistake: Daniel Barenboim is fully capable of pulling all the stops when required as well. Though he doesn´t quite reach the expected intensity in his rather slow approach to the final scene.
Peter Mattei with Onegin´s aria:
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
Peter Mattei: 5
Anna Samuil: 4
Ekaterina Gubanova: 5
Joseph Kaiser: 4
Ferruccio Furlanetto: 4
Daniel Barenboim: 5
Andrea Breth´s production: 5
Overall impression: 5