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4.4 out of 5 stars
Eugene Onegin: Metropolitan Opera (Gergiev) [DVD] [2014]
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 20 January 2014
This production from the Metropolitan Opera must stand as at least the equal of the earlier Robert Carsen Met production with Renee Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky released on DVD a few years ago. In my opinion this new production is superior by a nose, although I could not be without either.

The production is directed by Deborah Warner, with later assistance from Fiona Shaw, and their experience with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Great Britain enriches and enlivens the theatricality of the piece. In the first act particularly the setting - which is in the summer house of the Larin estate - suggests a Chekhov play: the playing area is wide and shallow, with the upstage area seen only dimly through windows or an open door, and the lighting is at once suggestive of autumn sunshine filtering through trees through the windows and an enclosed, even slightly oppressive, interior. The blocking for the characters is shapely and intelligent, and the story line flows through their movements in this space as much as through what they are singing. It is brilliantly conceived. Whereas the earlier production with Fleming and Hvorostovsky was essentially impressionistic, with an open stage covered with autumn leaves for this section, and an inserted prop set into the same setting for Tatiana's bedroom in the letter scene, Warner's production grounds the characters in their lives, and in the manners of the Russian upper classes of the time.

It is of course the music which carries the day, and there is no question that this cast is superlative in every respect. Tatiana in Netrebko's interpretation is not so socially poised as Fleming's, more at odds with herself, and somewhat chafed at the small circumference of her life. Netrebko's voice has darkened and carries a richness which has been approaching over the past two or three years, but which has come in this production to its proper place, but this is a rounded and living performance, passionate, serene, fiery, and resigned by turns. Tatiana can be sung as a lyric soprano role, almost indeed as a soubrette in places in this first act, recalling that Tchaikovsky wrote this opera for students to perform - if one can believe it! - but there is certainly equal justification for Netrebko's performance here, with Tatiana moving into her maturity, yet still holding her sense of the possibility of romance in life she finds in the books she loves.

Marius Kwecien as Onegin is stunning, less imperious and more impulsive than Hvorostovsky, but with a youthful vigour in the voice, unlike Hvorostovsky's dark and sophisticated timbre. Larissa Diadkhova as Filippievna is ingratiating, with a rich contralto, and mezzo-soprano Elena Zaremba (who played Olga in the earlier production opposite Fleming) gives Madame Larina real substance and presence as their mother. Oksana Volkova, as Olga, is bright as a cricket in the first act - so bright in fact that in her teasing of Tatiana one might feel impelled to give her a slap - and believably stricken and mystified by Lensky's stubborn jealousy which leads to his death later in the opera. Piotr Beczala's beautifully ardent tenor and his convincing acting are perfect for Lensky, and somewhat superior to the lovely singing but slightly stodgy acting of Ramon Vargas in the earlier production.

There are many unforgettable moments, but the two scenes which completely enthrall are the two most private ones between Tatiana and Onegin, in the first part of the opera when Onegin returns her letter, and in the last scene when he is rejected. Indeed, the last five minutes of this production are among the most breathtaking moments, both musically and theatrically, I have ever seen on an operatic stage.

There are two slight flaws: the use of rifles rather than pistols for the duel seems drastic; after all, pistols might misfire or miss, but with rifles the outcome can't be hoped away. Alexei Tanovitski, who sings Prince Gremin in the last scene but one, is very pleasing in his character but somewhat woolly of voice; Sergei Aleksashkin in the earlier version is superior there. But these are small points, and neither of them is more than a quibble. I make them here as much to avoid the charge of being completely starstruck as for any other reason.

All of this richness would go for nothing were the orchestra wanting, but Valery Gergiev's conducting is masterly. Some early reviews suggested his accompaniment was somewhat slack, but if that were true it had come to itself by the time this performance was filmed. Gergiev's accompaniment is always flexible and responsive to the moment; this is neither waywardness nor lack of control, but the sign of a living interpretation. The urgency and pungency of his conducting, matched by his keen attention to orchestral and motivic detail, and the singing line he accords the lyricism of the score, are superior here even to his wonderful performance in the earlier Met production.

If you love the opera - and it bewilders me that there are some people who have seen it and do not - buy both this and the earlier production as well. If the budget will not stretch, then this is the first recommendation for any DVD of Eugene Onegin.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 6 May 2014
The combination Deborah Warner and Fiona Shaw along with Tom Pye,and costume designer Chloe Obelensky,makes for engaging viewing.The Lenski of Piotr Beczala is just thrilling to listen to.The creamy voice of Anna Netrebko is so good along side the emotional Mariusz Kweicien,its hard to believe that it could be bettered.Blue ray,HD, visual and sound are exellent.Its the way to go.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 6 May 2014
Mariusz Kwiecien is a superb actor with a superb voice. Anna Netrebko is full of passion, with a magnificent voice and a great actress. Piotr Beczala ardent and exquisite. And the orchestra conducted by Gergiev - ten points. A DVD to watch and watch and enjoy.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 18 June 2014
I do not have much to criticise here. It is a traditional production, which is a relief after some recent outrages. The soloists were all excellent. I love Anna Netrebko, but she looked a little matronly here for a young girl. I have only watched this once, but it left me strangely unmoved.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 January 2015
The best opera on dvd i have seen to date ,can we have more like this .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 May 2015
Wonderful singers and beautiful scenografi
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12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2014
Anna Netrebko hit the international operatic scene with that abominable production of La Traviata from Salzburg. She has been singing many Italian roles, ever since, performing better in the Bel Canto roles than in anything more dramatic, as she is blessed with an incredible voice, but seemed to lack style, in my opinion due to bad direction on the part of many of her producers. Now at last she is singing in her own language in a role she obviously understands well. The result is astounding. She is simply superb, far better than in any of her previous roles.
The rest of the cast is excellent. I have always had reservations for Gergiev's conducting. He is better than usual here but not as inspiring as some of the some of the old great Russian conductors.
I am basing this review on the "Met live" performance, but I imagine the blu ray transfer will be top quality as usual.
I strongly recommend this performance to anyone who likes this opera.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 May 2015
The cast has tried hard and done everything that in this case, it was told to do. It was hardly the cast's fault that all the soppranos were ordered to stay shoed when they shouldn't hane been, (In stark contrast to the Vienna State Opera, who got much more into the spirit of the thing) five years earlier. The novelist-poet, just like Robert Browning, was an admirer of girls in their bare feet. He was a Russian called Pushkin and always had to have girlfriends, that way. The stage sets aren't very lavish - I would have preferred a bit more gold, here and there, but the singing and effort was quite superb.
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on 1 March 2015
item as described
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2014
A first class performance throughout with a final scene that breaks one's heart. Never before have I seen such a convincing stage kiss!
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