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Tchaikovsky Eugene Onegin
Opera Holland Park
London 2 August 2005

Conductor - Stuart Stratford
Director - Tom Hawkes
Designer - Peter Rice
Lighting designer - Colin Grenfell
Choreographer - Jenny Weston

Onegin - Mark Stone
Tatyana - Camilla Roberts
Lensky - Peter Wedd
Olga - Victoria Simmonds
Larina - Sarah Pring
Gremin - Graeme Broadbent
Filippyevna - Menai Davies
Triquet - Tyrone Landau
Zaretsky - Nicholas Todorovic

Seemingly we were fortunate to miss the premiere of this production which, from reviews and personal communication, was blighted by bombs, inclement weather and under-preparation, whilst we were enjoying open air opera high in the Swiss Alps (Haydn and Mozart).

On a warm, dry evening, with a light breeze blowing gently into the Holland Park tent, it was easy to suspend disbelief and a critical/comparative stance and give ourselves over to this unique and treasurable opera in a performance which was infinitely preferable to this year's ENO revival at The Coliseum. We were enthralled from beginning to end, the sound enhanced by Peter Rice's backing set which, with a few added props scene by scene, was able to suggest the changing locations, and opened out at the end to transport us to the Gremin mansion by incorporating the facade of the once-stately house behind the stage. The rotating slats were brown for 'the country', green for the Gremins residence, and lit cool blue for the duel. We needed no more.

I can see what our paper-press colleagues mean about the personification of Tatyana and the 'squeaky-clean, sober and happy peasants'. However, we enjoyed the soft, warm colours suggesting a pot-pourri of dried rose petals for the country scenes, counterpointed by vibrant harsh colours in the upper class town setting. The OHP chorus sang splendidly once again and we saw the group scenes as charming interludes and appropriate to the sequence of "seven lyric scenes" which is Eugene Onegin.

We were happy with Hawkes' production, which did not draw attention to directorial clevernesses, and took the characterisations, and especially Camilla Roberts as Tatyana, for what and who they were, costumes and all. Mark Stone (Onegin) was all the more sinister by being dressed in white. They lived in their parts, and we with them.

There were a few intriguing details - e.g. the discreet servant holding Onegin's hat whilst he harangued poor Tatyana, well in earshot but used to 'hear nothing and see nothing' during Onegin's put-down of Tatyana by the washing line for her naivety in writing her confessional letter - ourselves voyeurs, privy to a scene which is usually depicted as a painful, very private duologue. This was mirrored by the visible presence of the Gremins' household staff during Onegin's last scene confessional monolgue.

The oft admired and versatile conductor Stuart Stratford brought out all the beauties of Tchaikovsky's score and we've never heard the the City of London Sinfonia sounding so well at Holland Park as from Row H on 2 August.

The casting was fine and the singers lived, introspected and quarreled believably in this sad tale of rejections and what might have been.... The audience was responsive and enthusiastic and it all compensated for our too precipitate return from idyllic Arosa to a nervous, edgy London.

Peter Grahame Woolf & Alexa Woolf

For more detail about the individual singers, see the collected OHP reviews of this production on the indispensable subscription website TheOperaCritic.

Pushkin's Prose Poem Yevgeny Onegin can be accessed, with English translation, at

It is quoted at length also in Prokofiev's Melodrama in sixteen scenes Eugene Onegin (Chandos CHAN 9318/9).

© Peter Grahame Woolf