There are two of her

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and sometimes there are two of him.

Just back from seeing Eugene Onegin, broadcast live from the Royal Opera House at the local fleapit, and as a profoundly ignorant opera-goer I am trying to sort out what I think about it.

It is a less lavish production than those from the Met, which in many ways is a good thing as far as I’m concerned; and I’m not qualified to give marks to the music or singing.   I became significantly involved, though, which is unusual for me with Tchaikovsky or with thwarted-love-and-now-it’s-all-too-late dramas, and a pleasant surprise, so there must be something to be said for it.

The attention-getter for this production is having two Tatyanas on stage simultaneously for quite a lot of the evening:  the young Tatyana dances, the mature Tatyana sings.  And then there are two Onegins.  The reviews were mostly rather sniffy about this, saying it removed the focus from the singers and that having the story told through flashbacks was both dull and convoluted.   Granted, it was impossible not to think of Catch 22 (‘I see everything twice’) and I did have an inward smile at the thought of having two Lenskys as well, especially as he spent so much time lying dead on the stage in the middle of a ball.  (On the other hand, so far from being offered two Olgas, the one we did have disappeared half way through – come on, chaps, what happened to her?)

However, in the end I liked having two of each, who could be either younger and older selves, or a way of representing a psychomachy taking place within each character, or, more fruitfully, both simultaneously.  Yes, the young Tatyana might well speak in the older Tatyana, but was the mature Tatyana also existent within, and trying to protect, the young Tatyana?  Was the young Onegin partially aware of the older Onegin inside him, sucking his teeth and saying ‘For God’s sake don’t do that you fool’?

I don’t know the answer, but I’m pleased to be able to ask the question.

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4 responses »

  1. I always thought that Eugene Onegin had more vowels than was good for any man, so kept clear of him. However, your review is amusing and enlightening, so maybe my prejudice is unfounded.

    • 🙂 I like your evaluation criterion for male characters! I’ve never read the source novel/poem as I tend to find it a bit wearing when Russian authors are being so conscientiously Russian, and have only seen this version of the opera, so I’m talking through my hat really.

  2. Thank you, I just learnt a new word. Can’t wait for psychomachy to turn up in a crossword. I enjoyed that post a lot; have to say that because the ‘Like’ button seems to have disappeared.

    • I think I learned it from Lewis’s “Allegory of Love”. Perhaps that’s why I like the weird presentation too – early training in thinking allegorically? (The eccentricities of WordPress, however, are quite beyond comprehension.)

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