Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin

Date 20th April 2018
Society Opera South East
Venue White Rock Theatre Hastings
Type of Production Opera
Director Fraser Grant
Musical Director Kenneth Roberts
Choreographer Sophia LeFevre-White


Author: Anne Lawson

Notable visual touches – the stage being covered in autumnal leaves with a row of brooms planted in wooden blocks, which the ensemble ladies removed and commenced choreographed ‘sweeping’ towards front stage. Light chairs in several scenes choreographed into a picture. A most elegant chandelier hanging centre stage glistening with opulence – red paper hearts trickling down from aloft.  A monochrome costumed ballroom scene with finishing feathers and elegant long gloves. Smart uniforms, in keeping with an air of Russia, complete with good black boots. Rural peasant costumes plus aprons and matching headscarves looked impressive for ladies’ ensemble, who were a little hesitant on their exit down the stage steps into the auditorium. Hair styling, both male and female most in keeping, the leading gentleman looking elegant with moustache and beard and managed his ‘chimney’ top hat with aplomb. The use of a screen with verses from Pushkin’s book projected - I personally had a little difficulty reading these, nevertheless an interesting concept. I particularly liked the use of the front gauze. A vast effort from the Production Team was obvious. Great artwork from Julia Bovee as well as her costume creations. The A4 programme was devised by John Rycroft with an eye-catching, red dripping broken heart, contents well laid out using quality paper, readable print, NODA logo, and pre-publicity evident.

Fraser most skilfully, again took on the role of Director for this year’s chosen piece - based on Pushkin’s Russian novel, an opera speaking deep from the heart, telling of a visitor, romantic aristocrat Eugene Onegin and young bookworm, immediately lovestruck Tatiana writing an eloquent letter that he rejects. At a community party Onegin is bored and flirts with her sister Olga, which of course develops into jealousy and later tragedy. Tatiana moves on from her rural life to one of riches and sophistication in the city, and as the years pass, there are inevitable casualties along the way, with wonderful music expressing these great emotions. Tchaikovsky created feelings of hope, longing and despair, which Fraser interpreted beautifully in both direction and lighting design which was operated by Marc Harding, creating such interesting visuals.  

Frozen scenes -  reminiscent of great paintings offering exciting shapes. Stage remained as – basically black with side flats broken with light lines running through. Tchaikovsky’s superb music was expertly conducted by popular Ken Roberts, the vast Sussex Concert Orchestra, with Andrew Laing the leader, who played without ever outdoing the singers. Sung in English, the principals all have impressive CV’s. Reflective Mother, estate owner - Madame Larina was Mezzo Soprano Jenny Samuel. Tatiana her daughter, a huge role, was sung with much passion by British-Australian Soprano Kristy Swift. Mezzo-Soprano Felicity Buckland sang a strong, well-matched Olga, being courted by neighbour, poet Lenski, sadly killed in a well performed pistol duel with Onegin, was confidently performed by Tenor Jonathan Cooke. Upright, elegant and commanding Baritone Rene Bloice-Sanders sang the role of Eugene who finally leaves in desperation, realising he does love Tatiana, now married and although admitting she still loves him, is not prepared to leave her husband.  Although a smaller role, David Woloszko sang the part of husband Prince Gremin will great clarity - words crystal clear – a joy. Tatiana’s nurse Filipievna, was homegrown, Mezzo-Contralto Karen McInally who characterised this lady superbly, with Tenor Jeremy Vinogrado and Baritone Jack Naismith in accomplished supporting roles. The chorus of peasants, guests, landowners, officers and children captured their roles – a beautifully sung, well-polished and staged experience. Credit to the Choreographer Sophia Lefevre-White and to the delightful ballet sequence ably performed by Yuriko Evans.