I've mentioned previously the trauma of my previous visit to the English National Opera at the London Coliseum. We all have move on from bad experience and where possible forgive and forget. Well last night was my time to forgive and forget at the ENO, because I had a great evening at their new production of Eugene Onegin!
Tchaikovsky's opera is not one I'm familiar with, neither is Pushkin's original book written and set in early 19th Century Russia. It's a typical story these days, simple girl meets dashing young man and falls in love, girls advances are snubbed, girl goes up in the world and marries well, boy suddenly finds her irresistible but it's all too late and ends in heart break. In this case for our lead Eugene Onegin. There's also a duel in the middle where Eugene kills his best mate from days gone by. This is all told with what i'm beginning to feel is a unique Russian angst and passion following my encounter with Dostoevsky Crime & Punishment earlier this year. You seem to be able to vividly feel the characters emotions as the story progresses. The staging helps here - traditional, yet evocative is what I'd describe it as. I liked it very much, and it's off the the Met in New York next. The score also helped, and was brilliantly conducted. Tchaikovsky produces some of the finest classic music I feel, again with a good splash of Russian emotion thrown in!
There were a few complaints about the evening. For starters, I just can't warm to the London Coliseum as a theatre! For some reason I find it vaugley depressing. Perhaps it's because it's not a traditional opera house like Covent Garden, yet not a new space like the Barbican or Saddler's Wells. Who knows. But I just don't like it. I'm also really not a fan of opera sung in English, especially if it was originally written in another language. I feel something is lost. I'd rather here opera in it's intended language and read the surtitles - which you still need to rely on quite heavily even at the ENO. Finally, the seats in the balcony area of the Coliseum are just so bloody uncomfortable! I'm a regular on the bench seats at the ROH, but these seem to be so narrow that they cut into your leg, even of someone of my small stature, and stop the flow of blood to your feet. Seriously, if you're taller than 5', you struggle for space and comfort. Still at £15, can't complain too much on this occasion.
To sum up - I had a really great evening at Eugene Onegin and I'd recommend anybody with time on their hands this Saturday evening to try and get down to see it. Otherwise do try and catch it when it's revived, which i'm certain it will be soon. Good job ENO! Great production! think i'll have to check out the book now too...