Friday, 6 November 2009

Copenhagen: Disappointing Eugene Onegin

Natalya Kreslina and Audun Iversen
Eugene Onegin. Royal Danish Opera, September 6th 2009. Production: Peter Konwitschny. Cast: Audun Iversen (Eugene Onegin), Natalya Kreslina (Tatiana), Jenny Carlsted (Olga), Niels Jørgen Riis (Lenski), Gustav Belacek (Gremin). Conductor: Michael Schønwandt.

I sincerely do not hope, this is what the Royal Danish Opera gets (rather: Has chosen) instead of the originally promised new Peter Konwitschny production of Die Frau Ohne Schatten, which he, most unfortunately, has withdrawn from: His 1995 production of Eugene Onegin, immediately recognizable to train-afficionados as it is modeled on the Leipzig train station in the concrete sense, and the cruelty of rigid social structures in the abstract sense.

Am I unable to love Eugene Onegin outside the context of Tchaikovsky and Pushkin? I hope not. Quite as expected, Peter Konwitschny clearly rejects that universe, and, as always in his stagings, outer circumstances (such as social and political structures) is a major determinant of character outcomes, thus there are neither any entirely good nor entirely evil characters. Konwitschny clearly and intelligently explained this point of view in a local newspaper before the premiere. Based on Konwitschny´s theoretical arguments, this is a both exciting and moving production of Eugene Onegin. Based on actually seeing this production in the theater, unfortunately, it is not.

What is it about then? I am not sure. We see the Leipzig Train Station with people moving in and out (modern dress, obviously). The audience is part of the tale, as Gremin and Tatiana move to a balcony and Onegin in front of the orchestra pit at certain points. Theatre within the theatre. Society makes Onegin and Tatiana what they are, Tatiana ultimately left alone while Onegin returns to the ranks of spectators. All of this leaves me extra-ordinarily non-moved, though I would not be surprised if Audun Iversen goes on to have a major career.

At this point, I would normally say that at least Michael Schønwandt and the Royal Danish Orchestra saved the evening. Unfortunately they did not as Schønwandt chose a very transparent reading of the score cementating this as a rather boring evening.

What makes this all the more irritating is the fact the Peter Konwitschny really does know how nail it (Michael Schønwandt as well): Their almost-beyond-praise production of Elektra, without doubt the best performance I have seen in my 25 years as a regular visitor to the Royal Danish Opera, will come up this Spring. As they say: Now is the time to look to the future.

The bottom line:

Audun Iversen: 4-5
Natalya Kreslina: 4
Jenny Carlstedt: 3-4
Niels Jørgen Riis: 3-4
Gustav Belacek: 3-4

Peter Konwitschny: 1

Michael Schønwandt: 3-4

Overall impression: 2

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