Eugene Onegin | Theatre Review
Grand Opera House, Belfast
By Chantelle Frampton
“Habit is sent us from above in place of happiness”. One of the many quotes from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin that demonstrates how a piece of writing from the early 1800’s can still be relevant in today’s society. The Scottish Opera performed the Russian classic, Eugene Onegin at the Grand Opera House – Belfast and reinvigorated the original melancholic and nostalgic themes of the original piece of work.
The story follows Eugene Onegin and those around him as we catch a glimpse into a man’s rise and fall and how it affects those around him. From the early introduction of Eugene, played by Samuel Dale Johnson, his rogue-like nature was apparent. From the casual glances into a mirror to the way, he enters the stage mounted on a horse. We are shown a man that is very aware of his charm and charisma and he exuded this in every aspect of his character.
The narrative does not solely follow Eugene however, we are introduced to a multitude of characters including two sisters Tatyana (Natalya Romaniw) and Olga (Sioned Gwen Davies). From her initial meeting with Eugene, Tatyana falls head over heels in love. As she sings of her desire for him we can feel the raw emotion and passion that has overtaken her. Her reading of novels and dreaming of a bigger world allows this outburst of passion to be much more virtuous and emotionally hard-hitting for the audience. Olga, on the other hand, is much more carefree and flirtatious, a direct opposite of her sister.
Throughout the opera, we are shown the gradual rise and fall of Eugene and its connection with his admirer Tatyana. After Eugene’s gentle rejection of Tatyana, he goes on to live his glamorous life before indications of reality begin to set in. A scene that depicts this beautifully is the choreographed ballet scene in which Eugene fails at seducing a ballerina. The casual glimpses into the characters lives are so eloquent and fluid that your emotions dart between each character on stage.
The full production was very meticulously put together and ensured every part of the set was used to its full advantage. We were introduced to further plot via the use of a backdrop behind the stage. This backdrop was where we first saw Eugene on his horse, where we saw him bathing naked and it was also where the chorus was confined. Whilst these occurrences weren’t at the forefront of the production, they were just as important for our immersion into the story.
Throughout the evening we are thrown into the lyrical beauty of Pushkin’s original novel and yet the Scottish Opera allow it to remain relatable to an audience of 2018. The characterisation of Eugene and Tatyana is performed phenomenally onstage and they allow us to experience the undeniable sentiment of growing up and not realising what you could have had until it is no longer attainable.