Eugene Onegin
Review by Willard Manus

Los Angeles Opera recently celebrated its 25th birthday by mounting a spirited production of Tchaikovsky's EUGENE ONEGIN (first seen at London's Royal Opera in 2006). Adapted by Tchaikovsky from Alexander Pushkin's classic novel, "Lyrical Scenes," EUGENE ONEGIN tells a story of unrequited, tragic love set against the backdrop of a Russian country estate, circa 1820.

Onegin (the baritone Dalior Jenis), a spoiled young aristocrat, wreaks havoc with the feelings of Tatiana (Oksana Dyka), pretending to be captivated by her only to reject her when she confesses her love. Deeply hurt, she eventually marries a stodgy old soldier, Prince Gremin (James Crewell). Tatiana's emotions are once again put to the test when the playboy Onegin later re-enters her life, barging in at her birthday ball (choreographed by Ulrika Hallberg) and commanding her to dance with him.

Rebuffed, he then makes a pass at Tatiana's silly sister, Olga (Ekaterina Semenchuk), thereby incurring the wrath of her husband and his best friend, the poet Lemsky (Vsevolod Grivnov). The insult leads to a pistol duel.

Tchaikovsky's music and text express his heartfelt compassion and sympathy for these characters whose lives have been wrecked by by wrong decisions in life. Their pain and torment are dramatized in stirring, full-throated fashion by the composer, whose musical genius is everywhere on display in this 3 1/2hr-long opera.

Conductor James Conlon and chorus master Grant Gershon contributed signicantly to the success of the production. Well-sung and acted, directed seamlessly by Francesca Gilpin (after Steven Pimlott), EUGENE ONEGIN got LA Opera's 2011/2012 season off to a rousing start.