Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tchaikovsky,Eugene Onegin

The Aeterna Opera Company was formed in Jerusalem in 2003, adding a new dimension to Jerusalem’s musical life. Its members are all professional singers, mostly from the FSU and their performances are always a festive event in Jerusalem. Their newest production - P.I.Tchaikovsky’s (1840-1893) “Eugene Onegin” - was performed at the Hirsh Theater of the Shimshon Center December 16, 2007. It was conducted by Ilya Ploykin, founder of the Musica Aeterna Choir and of Aeterna Opera.

Based on Pushkin’s novel written in verse of the same name, the libretto was written by Konstantin Shilovsky and the composer. It was first performed in Moscow in 1879 and is a fine example of lyric opera, with delightful and lyrical music throughout. The libretto very closely follows Pushkin’s text, retaining much of his poetry, to which Tchaikovsky adds music of a dramatic nature. The story concerns a selfish hero (Onegin) who lives to regret his rejection of a young woman’s love and his careless incitement of a fatal duel with his best friend. The opera was performed in the original Russian but with excerpts of Avraham Shlonsky’s translation of the text read in Hebrew by Uri Yudkin.

The overture, played by an ensemble of mostly strings, conducted by Ilya Plotkin, and seated to one side of the stage, introduces us to the sad fate and drama of the story. Tatiana and her sister Olga (Julia Plakhin) are in the garden, singing to their mother. Onegin (played by Andrei Trifonov) arrives and Tatiana (played by Ekaterina Tchepelev) falls in love with him. Act I sets the scene for the more dramatic Act 2. The women’s chorus is excellent, a small ensemble of fine voices and charmingly dressed. Act II begins with the ball for Tatiana’s birthday. In this scene, we hear the brilliant and well-known waltz. Onegin pays attention to Olga (Julia Plakhin), arousing Lensky’s (Dmitry Semenov) jealousy. In Scene 2, at a mill beside a stream, Semenov gives a touching rendering of Lensky’s aria “Faint echo of youth”, one of the evening’s highlights. Onegin appears, the duel takes place and Lensky is killed. Act III opens in Prince Gremin’s palace. Gremin is played by Boris Karbet, a singer of fine musical- and stage presence. In scene 2, we become involved in the emotional complexity of the situation as Tchepelev and Trifonov draw us into their dilemma: Tatiana loves Onegin but is now married and can not be untrue to her husband. Tchepelev’s vocal and stage presence are outstanding and the audience is won over by her performance. Trifonov is impressive, especially in the final scene.

Kudos to the Aeterna Opera Company for an evening of fine operatic singing, some nice stage settings and costumes and for total devotion to their art. Russian speakers, and there were plenty of them in the audience, were at an advantage, but there was magic in the air and it was an evening of opera in Jerusalem not to be missed.

Eugene Onegin, by P.I.Tchaikovsky
The Aeterna Opera Company
Ilya Plotkin-conductor
Michael Shapira-stage director
Irina Tkatchenko-costume designer
Andrei Klein-lighting
Ya’akov Livshitz-choreography

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