Few operas are as perfectly lyrical and poetic as Tchaikovsky’s ‘Evgeny Onegin.’ The composer fused his music and to the text of Alexander Pushkin’s exceptional novel in verse. That very thing that makes the opera great — its lyrical emotionality and impassioned story line — also makes it extremely challenging to perform.
Fortunately, for its production that opened Feb. 13 at the Egyptian Theatre, Opera Idaho assembled a dynamic team of artists who created an immensely satisfying performance. All the voices were phenomenal, especially the three central characters: baritone Gregory Gerbrandt as Onegin, soprano Marina Harris as Tatyana and Alexander Boyer as Lensky.
The opera tells the story of Onegin, a young man who destroys his life through his selfishness and careless disregard for others. He dismisses the love of the idealistic Tatyana, kills his best friend in a duel, then wanders hopelessly, only to return and realize his folly when he falls in love with Tatyana, who rejects him.
Dmitry Troyanovsky’s direction breathes the emotional life into the production by creating touching moments that drive the story forward. And even though the story is set in 1820s Russia, it moves with a contemporary ease.
Lee Savage’s clever set of rolling windows and doors against an illuminated screen defined the space and felt comfortable on the tricky Egyptian stage. It smoothly moves from the pastoral Steppes to the elegant Saint Petersburg court.
Boise-based lighting designer Raquel Davis further helped define space, even with the limited Egyptian lighting system. During Lensky’s aria as he contemplates his death before the duel the lights come at him different angles, imposing multiple shadows on the screen to create a shadowy foreboding.
The orchestra under Grammy nominated-conductor Sara Jobin played the score exquisitely. Jobin and Troyanovsky balanced the theatrical and vocal aspects of opera perfectly. Yet for all the wonderful theatrical bells and whistles, it still came down to the music and the voices.
This is Gerbrandt’s third appearance with Idaho. He was a knock out as Onegin, not just looking the part as the suave and charming aristocrat, but with a voice that grew richer as the emotional stakes elevated.
Harris was magnificent in Tatyana’s marathon scene where she writes a love letter to Onegin, her beautiful soprano taking her through full range of emotion.
Boyer matched his gorgeous tenor his moving performance of Lensky’s aria before his death. It was simply stunning.
The supporting cast were all standouts, especially Zanda Svede’s sparkling mezzo as Olga, bass Konstantin Kvach’s poignant confession of Prince Gremin’s love and mezzo Suzanne Hansen’s delightful nanny Filippyevna.