Thursday, 5 November 2009

DVD Eugene Onegin with outstanding Mariusz Kwiecien

Eugene Onegin. Paris Palais Garnier 2008. Director: Dmitri Tcherniakov. Cast: Mariusz Kwiecien (Eugene Onegin), Tatiana Monogarova (Tatiana), Andrey Dunaev (Lenski), Margarita Mamsikova (Olga), Anatoli Kotcherga (Gremin). Conductor: Alexandre Vedernikov with the Bolshoi orchestra and choir.

It is not a small thing to update the Russian National Opera, a project even young director Dmitri Tcherniakov admittedly felt more than slightly daunted by, replacing the 1944 production with this one, opening 2006 in Moscow. Following his intriguing and outstanding productions of Boris Godunov and The Gambler (both at the Berlin State Opera) and Khovanshchina (in Munich), this Bolshoi production opened the 2008-9 opera season at the Palais Garnier, Paris. Almost an exclusive Russian cast of several generations of Bolshoi singers, the Madame Larina and nurse being former Tatiana´s, there is a certain Russian mood to Eugene Onegin, though not nearly as much as I´d expected.

Not surprisingly, Dmitri Tcherniakov frees himself of the romantic world of Pushkin, Tchaikovsky and their contemporaries, though, again, not nearly as much as expected. Tcherniakov simply sets the entire production around a dinner party in an upper-class living room. Which, to a certain extent, works relatively well, mostly due to his excellent direction of the singers. This Onegin is really not so haughty, he doesn´t even shoot Lenski by purpose and almost (though not quite) kills himself when he is rejected in the end. However, this living-room context still does take some of the life out of the opera, making it slightly less than engaging theatre. Considering the first-rate DVD-competition from both Metropolitan Opera and Salzburg productions in 2007, this DVD is hard to recommend.
Unless, obviously, you are a fan of Mariusz Kwiecien, who is simply outstanding as Eugene Onegin. He has a touch of lofty Russian air, seemingly ease with both language and expression (he is Polish) combined with great acting and close-to perfect voice. Next to Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Peter Mattei, we now have the third great contemporary Eugene Onegin on DVD. Unfortunately in a production inferior, both musically and scenically to both Hvorostovsky´s (the Met by Carsen with Renée Fleming and Gergiev) and Mattei´s (Salzburg by Breth with Anna Samuil and Daniel Barenboim).
The rest of the cast, save Anatoli Kotcherga´s excellent Gremin, is rather forgettable, though points must be given to Tatiana Monogarova for her perfect Tatiana-look and convincing acting.
Mariusz Kwiecien as Eugene Onegin rejecting Tatiana:
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):

Mariusz Kwiecien: 5
Tatiana Monogarova: 3-4
Andrey Dunaev: 3-4
Anatoli Kotcherga: 5
Margarita Mamsikova: 3
Alexandre Vedernikov: 4
Overall impression: 3


Bogda said...

Mostly, nice to have you back.vI was very much waiting for your take on this production.

This is to my opinion, by far the best Onegin production in ages. I've seen it half a dozen times at the Bolshoi and I still can't get enough of it. Tchernyakov has produced one of the best thought through and most inteligent takes on this opera ever. The production is full of countless details and great acting from every single cast member. One of the most prevailing comment from every audience member after each show, regardless of their liking of the production or not, was that it was one hell of a drama theatre.

It's a show that completly shaked the whole Moscow opera scene, and is doing so until this day. If you check the reviews from Paris and La Scala runs, you'll see that one thing that everyone agrees on is that it's one hell of a theatre piece.

All of this was however, unfortunately filmed extremly badly which resulted in one of the more disapointing DVDs I've bought recently.

I would really advise anyone who has a chance to go and see it live and not to buy this DVD. This should not be such a difficult thing since the show's been traveling alot. Gerard Mortier was so taken by the production on the opening night that he immediatly invited Bolshoi to show it in Paris.

I guess that the fact that Bolshoi show is being shown in Paris, Scala and Covent Garden, after not showing any opera in the west basically for decades does mean something.

mostly opera... said...

I can very well imagine you may be right. You get the impression that the personal direction is very, very good as it also have been in the other three productions of Tcherniakov´s I have seen.
Interestingly, the video director is one Chloe Perlemuter, the same one who directed the completely scandalous DVD of the Zürich Tannhäuser production with the worst clipping I have yet to see.
Tcherniakov, in my opinion, is one of the best opera directors I am familiar with. Good to hear that the audiences like the show.

Cinna said...

to mostly opera ...
I saw this on DVD - I disagree with your review of this - I believe it is a fascinating production. (I originally bought it because of Mr. Mariusz, who I believe to be the best Onegin around (saw him live too at Munich), even though I also really like the other two productions you mention). I agree with your five stars for him ...
It is true, however, that the video directing in this could be better.
Apart from that, I think the DVD is really thrilling!

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