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Metropolitan Opera pleasant but not excellent

Metropolitan Opera performs Tchaikovsky';s Eugene Onegin at the Wang Center, Boston, April 23.

Tuesday's Metropolitan Opera performance of Eugene Onegin was mixed: The evening was pleasant, rather than stunning, but not without its high spots. Most of these were contributed by David Rendall who sang Lenski, the lover of Olga who ends up getting shot in a duel with Onegin.

Rendall is a lyric tenor with enormous feeling for the drama of words, and was completely at home with the Russian text. He alone among the singers conveyed every nuance of understanding without requiring the audience to know a word of Russian. We see Lenski as a warm character, but an impetuous and jealous one whose life is destined to be reflected in his great Act II Scene 2 aria. Against a stark early morning country backdrop, we see Lenski alone, and Rendall's rendition of the aria could not have been more impassioned or more beautiful.

Other notable performances included a nicely-done Triquet by Anthony Laciura, and a solid Prince Gremin from Paul Plishka.

Carol Vaness sang Tatiana -- the woman rejected by Onegin later to reject him -- and especially towards the end we heard some stately singing. In Act III, with Onegin at Tatiana's knees, Vaness projected with a clarity that gave her a grand sense of presence. But there were long passages where one felt uncomfortable with her performance: The extended Act I scene with the servant Filippyevna was an example of a lost opportunity: Vaness lacked drama here either in voice or action and the scene seemed to drag. And Victor Braun was not an outstanding Onegin, too heavy and unsubtle.

The sets were evocative, lighting soft and illustrative. The lead up to the duel between Onegin and Lenski was tightly staged, there was color to the singing of peasant women in Act I, and dancing in Act III was stylish. But too much of the other action was static: we have moved beyond the age where singers are required to do no more than stand there and sing.

The orchestra played competently under Thomas Fulton, at times rising to dramatic effect, especially to accompany Lenski lonely soliloquy before the duel: The music was haunting here and drew deeply of the essence of Tchaikovsky's score.

Note: There are two remaining performances of the Metropolitan Opera available at a discount to the MIT Community as part of The Tech Performing Arts Series: Simon Boccanegra tonight at 8pm; and Hansel & Gretel tomorrow at 1:30 pm. Tickets ($8 for Simon, $5 for Hansel) can be purchased at the Technology Community Association, Rm. W20-450; call 253-4885. $8 Rush tickets, for students only, will also be available tomorrow at the Wang Center box office for Cos`i fan Tutte to be performed tomorrow at 8pm.

Jonathan Richmond->