Supporters’ Tale: Eugene Onegin
Two members of the Artists' Circle tell us how their involvement made watching the production even more rewarding.
Krassimira Stoyanova as Tatyana and Vigdis Hentze Olsen as Young Tatyana in Eugene Onegin © ROH / Bill Cooper 2013
The story of Eugene Onegin begins with the optimistic passions of youth – Tatyana’s adolescent love at first sight for Onegin, and the hot blood that sends Lensky and Onegin to the fatal duel. Why then is the music, from the very first bar, so elegiac?
Kasper Holten’s answer is that the opera tells the story from the viewpoint of the mature Tatyana and Onegin, regretting a past that they cannot now change. So he puts on stage, not merely Krassimira Stoyanova (as Tatyana) and Simon Keenlyside (as Onegin), but also dancers to represent their characters’ younger selves.
We were fortunate to be able to see a stage rehearsal and to hear Kasper Holten speak about his concept beforehand so we had some idea of what was coming. But nothing prepared us for the sheer emotional force of the actual performance, which gripped from the moment Robin Ticciati brought down his baton right through to the final curtain. Particularly in the first half, the production gave a truly compelling shape to the tumultuous passions of the characters: and, if we did not really need the branch and Lensky’s body on stage after the duel, to remind us of the psychological baggage that Onegin carried with him, at least it did not stop us from being swept away by the sheer emotional force of Tatyana’s final dismissal of Onegin.
Onegin is one of our favourite operas. But what made this particular performance a unique experience was the insight that we were able to gain beforehand, both from watching the show in rehearsal and from the talk that Kasper gave to the Artists’ Circle just before curtain up. We also greatly valued the chance to discuss what had just happened with members of the cast and the directors’ team at the Artists’ Circle dinner after the show. It never ceases to amaze us how generous the performers and production team are with their time and how patient they are in answering all our questions.
Joining the Artists’ Circle has given us a chance to learn about what goes on behind the scenes and has provided a thrilling insight into the things that go to make a truly great performance. We have also learned first hand about the problems of being an international star with a young family, about what it means to be a young dancer alone in London for the first time, and much more about what goes on backstage at the ROH. The evenings, among fellow enthusiast and supporters, are always friendly and social and, as we well remember, newcomers are made to feel very welcome.
We would like to thank all the members of the Artists’ Circlefor supporting the production of Eugene Onegin, along with production supporters The Monument Trust, Sir Simon and Lady Robertson and David Hancock. We would like to thank Hamish and Sophie Forsyth for generously supporting the Production Director. If you would like to find out more about joining the Artists’ Circle please contact Deborah Lewis on +44 (0)20 7212 9587 or email Deborah Lewis.