Metropolitan Opera House, February 24, 2007 Matinee Simulcast
P. I. Tchaikovsky-P. I. Tchaikovsky/Shilovsky
Eugene Onegin………..Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Prince Gremin………..Sergeì Aleksashkìn
Lighting Designer…….Jean Kalman
Stage Director……….Peter McClintock
Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network, Broadcast live on Sirius Metropolitan Opera Radio; Transmitted live in HD to movie theaters in the United States, Canada and Europe Taped for later telecast
© Johan Elbers 2007
After getting stuck in traffic on West End Avenue, jumping from my car in the parking garage at 120 pm! running madly over to the House and up the stairs, I made it to my seat in the Front Row of the Balcony at 128 pm! However, the drama and excitement did not end there – the matinee performance was one of the hottest I have seen at the Met in a long time. Everyone was giving their all and they had the audience in the hands throughout.
I have heard the previous two Sirius broadcasts and love the opera as its one of my favorites – for both the broadcasts followed with the score, [I learn so much from this] – so by today, I was more than prepared. Of course, the singing had been exemplary on the Sirius broadcasts and the praises have been ringing by media and on blogs – but still its experiencing an opera live that is the best.
First, Ramon Vargas was amazing; I have heard him live before and many times on the radio/web casts… but here he really captures the Lensky character – the bookish poet, serious and SO in love, and with his singing – sublime is the only word to use. His Third Act aria was simply incredible – the passion and intensity of emotion flowing to us with ringing tones and fabulous language.
An added attraction to the afternoon’s enjoyment was the pair of native Russian sisters seated next to me – we struck up a very lively conversation at intermission – they gave Vargas HANDS DOWN the prize of the day for idiomatic Russian singing and his portrayal of the Lenski character. They raved on about the interpretation by Tchaikovsky from the Pushkin story – and something I was not aware of – PT made a HAPPY ending for the story! It was changed obviously. I have searched around and can’t find any substantiation for this, but well, I am not Russian so who am I to deny it. Interestingly they felt that Hvorostovsky seemed a bit blase – but that the last scene was superb.
I was quite taken with Renee Fleming’s portrayal of Tatiana – was it just me or did she seem a bit nervous in the first act? The only problem I had with the Letter Scene was the balance between the orchestra and the stage- it seemed to me the orchestra slightly overrode Ms. Fleming in some sections. This is definitely a role for her voice – the lusciousness and velvetness of her tone is a match for the writing of this role. Emotionally Ms Fleming gave some of the finest acting I have seen in her performances at the Met; especially the growth between the acts: from the shy young country girl full of longing and living in a dream world to a more subdued yet still young woman to the gracious princess well aware of her duties and place in society and the respect and love of her husband as well as the calmness and contentness in the future in living honorably. For me, she was most successful in the final scene – somehow the Letter scene while beautifully acted and sung did not have the emotional undercurrent that was in the last scene.
But then again – she had Mr. Hvorostovsky to play off of! He certainly lived up to the role which if any role fits anyone this one surely does he! I could run on and on with adjectives but its really simple – he WAS Onegin and sang the music as beautifully, as harshly and as hauntingly as possible when required. The exposure of his true emotions in the final scene was a masterpiece of restraint and release thru his singing and acting. I will be very sorry to hear if he does indeed retire this role but am extremely grateful to have had a chance to see this performance at the height of his considerable career.
The most satisfying experience for me comes from being with an artist as they delve into their soul and share that with us in their performances – be it singing, playing the piano, the violin, whatever – and it was a joyful experience indeed to witness that from Ms. Fleming, Mr. Vargas and Mr. Hvorostovsky today.
All of the singers in the rest of the roles were exceedingly good – I did feel as if there were a richness in the depth of the talent; as Martin Bernhiemer succinctly put it in his FT review- “Major performances in minor roles came from Larisa Shevchenko, former Maryinsky diva, as Tatiana’s nurse, and Richard Bernstein, Met Figaro par excellence, as Lensky’s second.” As well as Prince Gremlin (a fine performance of a major aria at the end of the night) and Ms Zaremba as Olga – she gave a wonderful performance showing the youthful playfulness of her character and thru her warm lush singing.
One note and an odd thing with the curtain calls – they were quite a bit longer than usual (I confirmed with an usher) and the supposition was that it was for the benefit of the Movie Cameras. We had NO problem supplying the required applause.
I was so enervated after the performance that I actually went to the surprise signing in the Met Gift Shop by Mr. Hvorostovsky. It wasn’t a long wait – about 40 minutes and was spent in fascinating conversation with a woman from California on one of her frequent Met opera trips (5-6 this trip) and two very lovely and opinionated Russian women. We had an invigorating discussion about Ramon Vargas with whom they were most pleased – and Ms. Fleming but when I mentioned the signer himself – well, such dramatically raised eyebrows and heaving bosoms and the utterance of ‘Our Dmitri’ said it all.