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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 September 2013
The very nature of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin is one that often makes it difficult to cast and present. The opera is all about the arrogance, impetuosity and naivety of youth seen refracted through a lifetime of regret. As such, it has the near impossible task of needing performers capable of expressing both youthful idealism and the regret that comes with experience in the same person and - as if that wasn't difficult enough - express both positions almost simultaneously. Tchaikovsky's remarkable highly romantic musical score is able to do that, but finding singers who have the exact balance of youth and experience needed to express and actually sing the challenging roles is rather more difficult.

If it were a film, it would simply be a matter of just casting younger actors to play the youthful roles and then bring in experienced stars to play their older counterparts. In the opera house it's not possible - or at least not common - to cast in this way, and certainly not for roles like those in Eugene Onegin that have very specific singing and continuity demands. For the Royal Opera House production, Kasper Holten has opted for using doubles for Onegin and Tatyana, employing dancers to play their younger selves, and having them both on the stage together in order to allow those interlocking sentiments of youth and experience to play out simultaneously in reflection. As a response to the themes and the actual music itself it's a valid idea, but it's one that is rather more difficult to pull off theatrically.

It's not as if this kind of cast needs the additional dramatic support. Krassimira Stoyanova in particular is just phenomenal, delivering a sensitive and deeply nuanced performance that works well with the concept. When you see the youthful idealism and romanticism embodied in the expressions and the fluid movements of dancer Vigdis Hentze Olsen during Stoyanova's moving account of the letter scene - the older Tatyana regretful of her younger counterpart's painful naivety - it does actually enhance the scene and reflect those contradictory sentiments. Simon Keenlyside is a marvellous actor as well as a fine singer in this role, but the look of nervous excitement on the young Onegin (Thom Rackett) as he picks up a duelling pistol, oblivious to the reality of what he is about to do, while the older Onegin looks on with painful regret and unable to avert the disaster, is also justified and well handled. The death of Lensky, leaving Pavol Breslik lying there at the front of the stage through the remainder of the opera, doesn't work quite so well. The dead branch that he symbolically drags onto the stage would have been enough on its own.

Any such reservations however are few and minor when taken alongside the evident consideration behind the directorial choices elsewhere in this Eugene Onegin. The Polonaise is more than just a beautiful interlude here, throwing Keenlyside's Onegin with abandon into the midst of swirling ballet dancers that he attempts to grasp but is unable to hold. Tainted by his past and his behaviour, it seems like everything he touches just dies in his hands. Mia Stensgaard's set - a framing set of doors, opened or closed as necessary, with suitable backgrounds, colouration and lighting that enhances the moods - is also highly effective in establishing a consistent look and feel for the work. Tchaikovsky's score is superbly performed by the orchestra of the Royal Opera House under Robin Ticciati, who recognises its majestic romanticism but also its aching intimacy.

The colours and tones of the production design come over well on the Blu-ray, as does the music and singing. In addition to an optional introduction and interval feature, Kasper Holten provides a full length director's commentary, which is uncommon on an opera BD. I don't think the production needs explaining, but considering the unwarranted criticism the production received when shown at Covent Garden, the director clearly feels the need to clarify his intentions. Perhaps this is another case like the ROH Robert le Diable, which may indeed not have worked in the theatre, but its qualities can better be appreciated in close-up on film. The booklet contains a lovely insightful essay on the work itself by Marina Frolova-Walker that considers how Tchaikovsky's music expresses the content. Subtitles on the Blu-ray disc are English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Korean.
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on 30 August 2015
I remember vividly watching the screening of this production on my small TV. I was utterly gripped at its imaginative use of the dancers as the "younger Onegin and Tatiana" whilst Keenleyside and Stoyanova sang so passionately.Brilliant-this is why I am ordering a copy now some years later!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2014
I would never watch again if this was the only version I had seen. A jumbled, confusing production with more than one Onegin appearing on stage together on a number of occasions, hiding behind various props and creeping around. It failed to suspend disbelief and was totally lost on me. What planet is this Artistic Director on.
Thankfully I watched the Met production starring Netrebko a few months later and was inspired.
Two * because the singing voices were good.
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on 23 March 2015
Fantastic production
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 27 January 2014
This is quite a good version of my favorite opera. Some of tye voices are splendid and the "mise en scene" is not excentric as many of the current versions.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 January 2014
A fantastic story of opportunities missed and taken and the consequences of both. Excellent performances from everyone; brilliantly staged and imaginatively projected. The best version of this opera ever.
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