Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin plays live in HD at Carib 5, Cross Roads, at noon tomorrow, with encore performances on Sunday, October 13, at 11:30 a.m. at Palace Cineplex, Sovereign Centre, Liguanea and Palace Multiplex, Fairview Shopping Centre, Montego Bay.
Tickets are on sale for the 2013-2014 season at participating theatre box offices and via the web at www.palaceamusement.com with a Palace Card. Season passes are available for all 10 live perfor-mances only.
Scenarios of unrequited love are the stock-in-trade of opera composers, but with Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky achieved something far beyond another variation on an all-too-familiar theme. For producer Deborah Warner, the opera offers "a complete portrait of the human condition, viewed through the frame of the young approaching life and love for the first time".
Capturing that may sound like a tall order, but a sensitive presentation of Tchaikovsky's richly lyrical masterpiece can rank among the most moving experiences an audience can have in the opera house. The Met's new Onegin features the added benefit of a dream cast conducted by the remarkable Russian maestro Valery Gergiev. Anna Netrebko takes the role of the shy ingénue Tatiana, whose heart is broken after she confesses her love to the charming-but-uninterested Onegin.
Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecien, another Met favourite, takes on the title role, and tenor Piotr Beczala is the poet Lenski, Onegin's ill-fated friend who hot-headedly challenges him to a duel over a meaningless flirtation.
Onegin was once considered 'exotic' by virtue of its Russianness (completed in 1881, it took until 1920 to have its American premiere, when the Met introduced the work in an Italian translation), but today it is recognised as a core repertory work, a counterpart to the ceremonial grandeur and mystery of Mussorgsky's epic Boris Godunov. Both operas now form the twin pillars of the Russian repertoire regularly produced around the world.
The match of composer and subject matter in Eugene Onegin has come to seem inevitable. Curiously, though, Tchaikovsky initially balked when a singer friend casually suggested making an opera out of the epic novel-in-verse, published by Alexander Pushkin between 1825 and 1832.
There were at least two good reasons for his hesitation. Pushkin's Eugene Onegin had acquired a sacrosanct status that might be compared to that of Goethe's Faust in Western Europe.
On a purely practical level, Tchaikovsky worried that Eugene Onegin was inherently undramatic, at least in the sense of a clear linear plot.
Within a framework that includes references to the spectacle of grand opera - in the famous dance music pulsating through the party scenes that serve as structural pillars - Tchaikovsky sculpts an intensely intimate drama of the inner lives of his characters. Artifice and convention are ironically contrasted with the spontaneity of untrammelled feeling. Tellingly, the score's most admired passages are essentially character monologues.
Even the powerful final confrontation between Tatiana and Onegin unfolds as a sequence of solos: this is a tragic love story with no love duets.
Warner's new production forwards the setting by a few notches, to the later 19th century. In part, she explains, this was because the earlier time frame happens to fall smack in the middle of what's become associated with "the cliché of operatic costume". Her goal, with the help of costume designer Chloe Obolensky's ravishingly detailed work, is to create an impression of 'wonderful clothes, not costumes' so that "you feel you're walking directly into the period".
Tom Pye's set designs and Jean Kalman's lighting establish a 'glassy, icy' look for the piece as a whole.
Warner hopes the production can transcend the usual categories existing somewhere on a spectrum "from traditional to cutting edge or provocative. I think that with Pushkin's text, with Tchaikovsky's music, we're in pursuit of truth." And what ultimately matters, for Warner, "is that we affect the hearts of the audience".