Director Robert Carsen who first did this Eugene Onegin at the Met in 1997, does an interesting presentation of the beloved Tchaikovsky opera.
The curtain opens to reveal a distant, somewhat shadowy figure of baritone Mariusz Kwiecien as an Onegin who is gloomily leafing through the pages of an old letter.
How he came to this despondency unfolds through about 160 minutes (not including the intermission) of wonderfully lyrical and dramatic acting and singing guided by revival director Paula Suozzi and conductor Alejo Pérez.
The opera, opened with peasant harvest vignettes, continues to move along in a series of scenes that relate what is happening in Onegin’s life. They are portrayed in a minimalist, big-box set design by Michael Levine.
The libretto by Tchaikovsky and Konstantin Shilovsky follows portions of Alexander Pushkin’s poetic novel about ill-fated romantic attractions. A country girl, Tatiana, falls in love with the aristocratic, sophisticated Onegin who is visiting his ill father living next door.
Soprano Aana Maria Martinez as Tatiana sings her love letter to Onegin while she distractedly flits around her bedroom. The famed “Letter” aria Act I highlight is lengthy but delightfully expressed by Martinez as a young passionate lass.
In his strong baritone, Kwiecien cooly tells her to save her ardor for a deserving suitor because he views her more as a sister and friend. It’s a move Onegin will deeply regret at the end of Act III when he is rejected by a now married, dignified Tatiana.
In Act II Onegin is bored at a party for Tartiana’s name day so he dances with her sister, Olga, nicely acted and sung by mezzo-soprano Alisa Kolosova in her American operatic debut.
Olga’s fiancée, the poet Lensky, becomes jealous and in the heat of the moment challenges Onegin to a duel. It’s a duel neither really wants but honor says they have to go through with it. Tenor Charles Castronovo’s gorgeous lament as Lensky is the highlight of Act II.
Act III opens with Onegin years later bored at a ball at his cousin Prince Gremin’s St. Petersburg Palace. Then he spies a regal Tartiana who is married to Gremin (bass Dimiry Belosselskiy). Belosselskiy intones a fine, deep “All men surrender to love’s power.”
It is now Tartiana who receives an impassioned declaration of love. And it is her turn to decline Onegin’s plea even though she still loves him. The opera ends with Onegin left to contemplate his regretful actions.
Details: Lyric Opera’s production of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” opened Feb. 26, continues through March 20, 2017 at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive. For tickets and other information call (312) 827-5600 and visit Lyric.