Marja-Leena Rathje
Home ::: Eugene Onegin

Eugene Onegin

Painting by Michael Abraham

We love opera, as some readers may know from the few times I've written about it here. Most exciting for us is to enjoy the colourful and lively visuals of theatre along with the inspiring music. We try to catch some of the offerings on television or DVD and very occasionally indulge and attend a life performance.

In the past, we've resisted season tickets to any one musical organization, thinking we'll dip into a variety of offerings in our city. However we have a tendency to be lazy and leave decisions to the last moment, then end up not going out as much as we should for our own pleasure. Commitment-phobia perhaps? This fall, however, we impulsively decided to get some discounted season tickets to our very own Vancouver Opera.

So this past Saturday evening we attended the opening night of the first opera of this season, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. It was a delight! New to us as a whole production, sung in Russian with English subtitles overhead, we loved it all - the stage sets, costumes, the singers, chorus, dancers, the music and the drama. As others have written, Onegin is full of many contrasts especially country vs city, peasant vs upper class Czarist society, and so full of the emotions of melancholy, love, pride, jealousy, anger, as much of opera is.

Some of the lead performers are Canadian, including Rhoslyn Jones (as Tatyana) from Abbotsford, east of Vancouver. Hearing real Russian rolling from the voice of Oleg Balashov as poet Lensky was a treat for Vancouverites. Our very favourite voice, though, turned out to be that of bass Peter Volpe as Prince Gremin.

In doing my homework on this opera, I listened to some podcasts and discovered there's even a blog. There are now some reviews at both sites, this one being my favourite.

We are looking forward to the rest of this season of opera.

Addendum Dec.1st, 2008: Photographer Alex Waterhouse-Hayward attended opening night and wrote the best thing I've read on it.

Marja-Leena | 25/11/2008 | 11 comments
themes: Culture, Music


Glad to see you enjoy yourself but curious. Have you ever read the poem? I remember reading parts of it long time ago.

Oh, how wonderful! I've yet to go to the Montreal opera but maybe this year will be the year; we tend to buy ballet tickets because we both like dance. I love it when you write about opera and why you enjoy it - so glad this performance was a good one!

Cathy, I have not read Pushkin at all. Thanks to your question, I found some translations online and must read it. I wonder which might be the best one though.

Beth, glad you enjoyed this. I know how much you love music. I like dance a lot too, but that's one thing my husband is not as fond of.

Thanks for the podcast tip. I'm listening to the first podcast now.

Facing Wagner I'm conscious of my rooted dislike of myths, of how uncomfortable my seat is, of the composer's unlikeable personality, of the ugly ear-lobes of the person in front, of time unrolling towards infinity, of the difficulties in warming to 250 lb sopranos... And then the music starts.

I have had some wonderful experiences at the opera...but not now, there is nowhere close enough. Lucky you

Lilalia, thanks for visiting and commenting. Enjoy!

Barrett, you have made me laugh again. I can identify with some of the discomfort, like having to dress up and wear tight shoes and longing for more room to stretch out my legs... but I enjoy watching the people, their clothes and guess who's heading for the dress circle, and who for the cheaper seats (like us). All's forgotten when the curtain rises and the magic begins.

Rosie, your comment just came in as I'm writing this! Yes, I'm lucky, I know, to be living in a city and the cultural offerings that one provides, especially one that has an opera society, even if it's not quite the status of the Met or La Scala. Yet, it's amazing how many wonderful performances are available on DVD to watch in the comfort of your own home!

Great that you have the incentive of a season ticket - producers of unexpected treasures that one wouldn't otherwise pay for. Hope you'll find that. I've never heard the Onegin opera but saw the ballet years ago and remember the music, no one can wrench more emotion from the strings. Well, maybe Puccini.

"The curtain rises and the magic begins" recalls the opera scene from Pretty Woman that, for all its saccharin, is close to my first response to live opera, though I was in cheap seats with a scruffy student - but you know what I mean.

I've a friend whose brother-in-law is a famous Hungarian conductor, she's sat through at least two ring cycles! She says Bayreuth is weird, very uncomfortable seating and torture at first but then you get past that and enter a new state...

I wish I had the experience of opera, I've never really been to anything except Die Fledermaus and some G&S when I was young, which I don't think really count. Your Eugene Onegin sounds great. I really like that picture too, where is that from?

Anna, I'm sure we'll get maximum pleasure out of our season tickets. Opera does 'wrench the emotions' and that's what I love about it, rather like a good old fashioned movie. Thanks so much for the Pretty Woman link, I'd forgotten that scene. I think it's time to rent that film again.

Wonderful memory of your first live opera, Anna. I think my first time was right here at the Vancouver Opera when we first moved here. My husband's company used to be a benefactor and employees would get half-price seats. One time we almost missed a performance when the baby-sitter did not show up and I had to call my dear friend and neighbour to come over!

My most memorable opera experience was the first time attending the Savonlinna Opera in Finland.

Lucy, how interesting about your friend's brother-in-law, and her experiences at the Bayreuth, lucky her to be there! I've only seen odd parts of the Ring on TV and it does seem heavy going. I'd love to see Placido Domingo in that. Operettas like Die Fledermaus are lovely and light, a great prequel to the heavier stuff, probably my own introduction to it, I can't remember. As I wrote to Rosie, there are many great DVDs now if you want to watch at home.

Oh, and the artist who has done all the illustrations for Vancouver Opera's brochures and website is Michael Abraham. I grabbed this one off the website. Should have attributed it... will do so now.