Eugene Onegin Millennium Centre, Cardiff/Touring 5/5
WELSH National Opera’s production of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin is a superlative production, destined for classic status.
The opera, a mannered study in unrequited love, here contains memorable acting, fine singing, wonderful costumes, dancing, fabulous staging and a simple tale told in a gripping way.
Natalya Romaniw is absolutely believable as the love-struck Tatyana who falls in love with Nicholas Lester’s mean and moody Eugene Onegin.
Both singers deliver memorable performances in conveying the emotions they both feel for each other.
Romaniw, onstage alone for most of scene two while she wrestles with composing her ill-fated letter to Onegin in which she declares her love for him, is in lovely voice as she delivers Tchaikovsky’s beautiful aria, portraying a gamut of emotions and doubt as she pours out her heart.
It deservedly brings the house down and Romaniw certainly earns her curtain calls.
After Onegin has brutally dashed her hopes with a patronising lecture on behaviour the two meet again at a ball to celebrate Tatyana’s name day. Director James Macdonald has a fine eye for detail and he has the shy Tatyana awkwardly moving through the crowded ballroom in a way that will resonate with anyone shy of social gatherings.
The WNO chorus, as ever, is in superb voice but here it is their dancing skills that deserve plaudits as they spin elegantly around the ballroom.
But a society ball is not complete without jealousy and misunderstanding and when Onegin is challenged to a duel by the poet Lensky (Jason Bridges), the anger seems genuine. The duel shocks in its brutal simplicity as Lensky is killed by a single bullet and lays dying on the snow.
Drawing performances like this out of singers is why the WNO is churning out so many memorable productions which marry convincing acting with fine singing. What also impresses is that the cast deliver their roles in Russian, an added plus in conveying Tchaikovsky’s tale of love and loss, faithfully adapted from Alexander Pushkin’s novel by the composer himself.
The WNO is on a roll and this second offering in their Russian season is a must-see.
Runs at the Millennium Centre until October 13, then tours until November 30, details wno.org.uk