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Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin / Skovhus, Stoyanova, Jansons [blu-ray]

Tchaikovsky / Skovus / Dunaev / Stoyanova
Release Date: 04/24/2012 
Label:  Opus Arte   Catalog #: 7100  
Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Andrei DunaevBo SkovhusNina RomanovaOlga Savova,   ... 
Conductor:  Mariss Jansons
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw OrchestraNetherlands Opera Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
Blu-ray Video:  $39.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Also available on standard DVD

Note: This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players, and not compatible with standard DVD players.

Madame Larina – Olga Savova
Tatjana – Krassimira Stoyanova
Olga – Elena Maximova
Filipjevna – Nina Romanova
Jevgeni Onjegin – Bo Skovhus
Vladimir Ljenski – Andrey Dunaev
Vorst Gremin – Mikhail Petrenko
Petrovitsj – Peter Arink
Zaretski – Roger Smeets
Monsieur Triquet – Guy de Mey
Zapevalo – Richard Prada

Chorus of De Nederlandse Opera
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Mariss Jansons, conductor

Read more Stefan Herheim, stage director

Recorded live at De Nederlandse Opera, June 2011

- Cast gallery
- 30-Minute Documentary Film

Picture format: 1080i High Definition
Sound format: LPCM 2.0 / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch
Running time: 151 mins (opera) + 30 mins (bonus)
No. of Discs: 1 (Blu-ray)


TCHAIKOVSKY Evgeny Onegin Mariss Jansons, cond; Bo Skovhus ( Onegin ); Krassimira Stoyanova ( Tatiana ); Andrei Dunaev ( Lensky ); Elena Maksimova ( Olga ); Mikhail Petrenko ( Gremin ); Olga Savova ( Larina ); Nina Romanova ( Filipevna) ; Guy de Mey ( Triquet ); Netherlands Op Ch; Royal Concertgebouw O OPUS ARTE OA 1067 D (DVD: 151:00); OA BD7100 (Blu-ray: 151: 00) Live: Amsterdam 6/2011

& documentary (30:00); cast gallery

If you’re one of those knee-jerk reactionaries who smears every not-quite-traditional opera production with the word “Eurotrash” and as a point of pride will not or cannot comprehend presentation techniques that for decades have been standard in straight theater, don’t even consider seeing this video, because you’re too damned stupid to understand it. There, I’ve said it at last. You’re as stupid as those idiots who call Barack Obama a “socialist”; if you disagree with the president’s economic and social policies, fine, many intelligent and honorable people do, but you should at least understand what those policies really are and, oh, by the way, look up a definition of “socialism.” Yes, contemporary directors are guilty of all manner of excesses that obfuscate and contradict the text, but that is not what’s happening in this Onegin , directed for Netherlands Opera by Stefan Herheim. Aside from a couple of touches that are, admittedly, too obscure (they make sense when Herheim explains them, but compelling theater shouldn’t need footnotes), this concept brilliantly elaborates and enriches the characters that Pushkin and Tchaikovsky have given us. It also provides a justification for casting two lead singers who are frankly too old to portray the central couple in video close-up.

In Herheim’s concept, there seem to be two levels of reminiscence and nostalgia in play. In the first and more direct (though not quite straightforward), Onegin and Tatiana are recalling the action of the story from some temporal distance, and the events unfold within their memories (thus, it’s OK for Bo Skovhus and Krassimira Stoyanova to look decidedly middle-aged even though their characters in the main action are in their 20s). The temporal distance between the action and the recollection is elastic; usually, it’s clear that decades separate the two, but sometimes events fairly close in time take place simultaneously. This is where Herheim doesn’t quite bring it off; his intention, he reveals in the accompanying documentary, is that Tatiana’s Letter Scene is unfolding while Onegin writes his own letter later, but this just isn’t clear. In the documentary—not the usual puff piece, and presented with uncommon personality—even after Herheim explains the scene to conductor Mariss Jansons in rehearsal, Jansons still looks nonplussed.

A second level of the action as “memory play,” however, helps the Letter Scene make more sense. The opera begins in modern dress at a dinner party given by some 21st-century Russian oligarch. Onegin enters, agitated, and is particularly disturbed when Tatiana appears on the arm of the oligarch, who corresponds to the character of Prince Gremin. I say “corresponds to” because at this point these are modern characters; only gradually is the mentally unstable Onegin drawn into a vision he has of a Russian country scene from approximately Pushkin’s time (the costuming will later pull the action toward the beginning of the 20th century, but not yet). At first Onegin is, in effect, a ghost from the future watching the interactions of Tatiana’s household, but soon he is literally pulled into the action, and his garb changes to reflect the period. In a parallel scene a bit later, Tatiana, too, is drawn into the historical situation almost against her will, as if she is cautiously playing along with the modern Onegin’s madness; ultimately it becomes something of a folie à deux . (The text itself—first via Tatiana, and then Lensky—emphasizes dreaming, longing, and sadness, the components from which Onegin builds his memory play.) The action continues to play out along two timelines, both of which share stage space without one timeline intruding on the other—except when Onegin or, more often, Tatiana needs a little jolt of reality, as for example in the sequence leading up to and including the Letter Scene, when Tatiana knows she should be joining her oligarch husband, Gremin, in their modern bedroom, but instead lingers in her “Pushkin” quarters with her mother and then Onegin. Note the book that Gremin has been reading in bed before he falls asleep; it’s the same old romance about troubled lovers that the girlish Tatiana had been reading just before her first “Pushkin” scene, and it’s the same one that Onegin later brandishes angrily when everything is falling apart and he reluctantly allows Lensky to maneuver him into the duel. That reappearing book provides many implications: that the historical figures are to some degree aware that they are characters being manipulated by an author; that the “modern” Onegin is struggling to understand his failed relationship by imposing his own memories onto Pushkin’s story; that Onegin himself is in some way the author of all these events (although eventually it’s Tatiana who seems to take conceptual control). Note that in the end, the cynical modern oligarch Gremin hands the distraught modern Onegin a loaded gun—and what Onegin tries to shoot is his own reflection in the window. If you’re comfortable with metafiction, you’ll derive great enjoyment from this production; if you don’t know what “metafiction” means, well, that’s another word you should look up before you start making pronouncements about this sort of thing, or Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia , or Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire , or Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods , or any movie masterminded by Charlie Kaufman.

As I mentioned, some of Herheim’s touches can be puzzling; the minor character Triquet is clearly a holdover from the French ancien régime , an old man still sporting his pre-French Revolution powder and lace; later, Herheim begins to employ imagery and costumes from the Russian Revolution, and the polonaise is a pageant of modern Russian/Soviet history. Yet none of the symbolism—including the presence of a Russian bear—is arbitrary, and most of it comments on the inhumanity of society, the way our real lives can be shaped by art, and the destruction of Romantic idealism—all of which are themes that come directly from Pushkin’s poem.

Oh, and the singing, you ask? Skovhus is an intense Onegin, but his sound production can be effortful. Stoyanova, on the other hand, is remarkably firm and controlled and well colored; she hardly sounds girlish, but she’s not yet matronly, and given the production’s concept her voice is at just the right stage for this version of the character. The other singers and the chorus perform very well, with special plaudits due the Lensky of Andrei Dunaev (who actually sounds like an ardent young poet rather than a conventional, character-nonspecific opera tenor) and the Gremin of Mikhail Petrenko, who radiates smooth authority. Mariss Jansons has always been a sympathetic Tchaikovsky conductor, and here he leads the Concertgebouw in a well-paced, colorful, but well-integrated performance.

Video director Misjel Vermeiran accomplishes the difficult task, given this sort of temporally and physically multiplanar production, of showing us everything we need to see when we need to see it. The high-definition video quality is what you’d expect, inhibited only by the deliberately murky stage lighting of some scenes, and the DTS-HD 5.1 audio presents the anticipated fine imaging and balance.

The only other Onegin on Blu-ray right now is the Met production on Decca. Buy that one if you can’t stand to think about your opera, and prefer gorgeous singing about nothing in particular.

FANFARE: James Reel
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Works on This Recording

Eugene Onegin, Op. 24 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Andrei Dunaev (Tenor), Bo Skovhus (Baritone), Nina Romanova (Mezzo Soprano),
Olga Savova (Soprano), Krassimira Stoyanova (Soprano), Elena Maximova (Mezzo Soprano),
Mikhail Petrenko (Bass)
Conductor:  Mariss Jansons
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,  Netherlands Opera Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877-1878; Russia 
Date of Recording: 06/2011 
Venue:  De Nederlandse Opera 

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