Gerald Carpenter: Academy’s Lehrer Institute Presents Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’ | Arts & Entertainment
Maestra Daniela Candillari
At 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 15, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 17, in the Granada Theater, the Lehrer Vocal Institute at the Music Academy will be staging Peter Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin, opera, after Pushkin (1877-78),” conducted by Daniela Candillari, directed by Peter Kazaras, and choreographed by Nicola Bowie.
The fellows of the Lehrer Vocal Institute with roles in the production are:
Samuel Kidd (Eugene Onegin), Johanna Will (Tatyana), Joanne Evans (Olga), Sarah Margaret Dyer (Madame Larina), Maximillian Jansen (Triquet), Luke Norvell (Lensky), Alex Mathews (Zaretsky). Eric Delagrange (Prince Gremin), and Quinn Middleman (Filippyevna), with Yue Wu, Eunsung Lee, Danielle Casós, Juliette Chauvet, Giorgi Guliashvili, Ariana Maubach, Tivoli Treloar, Anna Loreena Kelly, Lauren Funkhouser, Kylie Kreucher, Krista Renée Pape, Robert Rhodes Frazier, Christopher Willoughby, Dalia Medovnikov, Juliet Schlefer, Jonathan Lenn Lawlor, Sarah Scofield, Jonathan Elmore, Sarah Fleiss, and Sibo Msibi as understudies and/or members of the chorus.
The story: At the death of his uncle, the cosmically self-centered St. Petersburg nobleman, Eugene Onegin, inherits at country estate. Bored with society, he decides to move to the country and live a quiet life. His nearest neighbors are a young poet, Lensky, and a widow and her two daughters, Olga and Tatyana. Lensky and Olga are engaged.
Tatyana, a romantic, falls in love with Onegin, and writes him a letter confessing her love. He dismisses her attentions coldly. Shortly after, Onegin’s calloused flirting with gets Lensky angry and he challenges Onegin to a duel. They fight, and Onegin kills Lensky.
Onegin leaves and carries his remorse abroad. Returning to St. Petersburg years later, he starts attending balls again, and sees a beautiful, sparkling woman, who turns out to be Tatyana, all grown-up and married to an aged prince, a general in the army. Onegin goes up to her, confesses his love, and suggests they run away together.
Tatyana admits she still loves him, but that is not enough to overcome her sense of honor and duty, and she shuts him down.
Of Tchaikovsky’s 11 operas (throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, the best way for a composers to make a decent living outside a court was to write hit opers and ballets), there are only two we are likely to run across in our local opera house, and they are both based on works by Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837): “Eugene Onegin,” based on his novel in verse, and “The Queen of Spades, Opus 68 (1890),” after the short story of that name.
Clearly, the composer had an affinity for the poet. Each was a romantic, but of a very different kind from the other. Pushkin, like his younger contemporary Mikhail Lermontov (1814-41), was a romantic egoist, and the two were both de-facto disciples of George Noel Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), whose poetic drama, “Manfred,” was the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s greatest symphony, as well as Robert Schumann’s most coherent and effective orchestral score.
Byron’s egoism led him to fashion the role of liberator for himself, and he went off to Greece to help lift the Turkish occupation; when he got there, however, he found that he liked the Turks rather better than he liked the Greeks, but he didn’t change his allegiance, and, while planning an attack pn the Turkish fortress of Lepanto, he fell ill and died.
The egoism of Pushkin and Lermontov, on the other hand, led them to dueling, and they were both killed in duels, Pushkin at 38, Lermontov at 27. Romantic egoism is characterized by arrogance and disdain for all rules and conventions.
Now, say the words “romantic music” and most people will think of some composition of Tchaikovsky—”Swan Lake,” “Francesca da Rimini,” the “Pathetique” Symphony, “Romeo and Juliet,” and a host of others, including “Onegin”—and he was clearly a romantic, which was always, with him, more of a taste in literature than a compositional style.
Tchaikovsky’s romanticism most closely resembles the description of the sensibility made by Geoffrey Scott in “The Architecture of Humanism” (1914, 1924):
“Romanticism may be said to consist in a high development of poetic sensibility towards the remote, as such. It idealizes the distant, both of time and place; it identifies beauty with strangeness. In the curious and the extreme, which are disdained by classical taste, and in the obscure detail, which that taste is too abstract to include, it finds fresh sources of inspiration.
It is most often retrospective, turning away from the present, however valuable, as being familiar. It is always idealistic, casting on the screen of an imaginary past the projection of its unfulfilled desires. Its most typical form is the cult of the extinct. In its essence, romanticism is not favourable to plastic form.
It is too much concerned with the vague and the remembered to find its natural expression in the wholly concrete. Romanticism is not plastic; neither is it practical, nor philosophical, nor scientific. Romanticism is poetical. From literature it derives its inspiration; here is its strength; and here it can best express its meaning.
In other fields—as in music—it has indeed attained to unimagined beauties; but always within certain limits and upon fixed conditions …”
Regular Price tickets for “Eugene Onegin” are $55-$75. Community Access tickets, as available, are $10; and kids 7-17, as always, are admitted free. Tickets are available from the Summer Festival (Casey) Ticket Office, in person 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, through Friday, Aug. 6; by phone at 805-969-8787; or online at www.musicacademy.org.
— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed are his own.