LSM Newswire

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Opera Lyra Ottawa Presents Eugene Onegin by Pietr Ilych Tchaikovsky

Opera Lyra Ottawa Presents Eugene Onegin by Pietr Ilych Tchaikovsky

April 4 – 11, 2009 Southam Hall National Arts Centre

March 24 2009. Opera Lyra Ottawa (OLO) presents for the first time Tchaikovsky’s great romantic opera Eugene Onegin April 4, 6, 8 and 11, 2009 at the National Arts Centre. Exquisite singing, beautiful dancing and gorgeous music will transport audiences to 19th century St. Petersburg.

For this production, Opera Lyra Ottawa has brought together a stellar cast of Canadian and international singers led by baritone Russell Braun in the title role. With a voice that has been described as thrilling, glorious, powerful, elegant, soft-grained, and spine-tingling, Russell first sang the role of Onegin in San Francisco in 2004. Russian-born soprano Inna Dukach takes on the role of Tatiana, a beautiful and innocent young woman who falls passionately in love with Onegin. Acclaimed for her “appealing emotional vulnerability”…colourful shaping and shading” (Opera News), this is Inna Dukach’s first appearance with OLO. Richard Troxell brings an “intensity and sensitivity” to the role of Lenski who, through jealousy, is doomed to die by Onegin’s hand in a duel.

As Olga, “radiant and rich-voiced” Ottawa-based mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Turnbull is doomed to lose her lover Lenski in a flirtatious moment with Onegin. New Yorker Peter Volpe, who appears as Prince Gremin, was “especially impressive in both voice and stage presence” (Opera) in the same role in the recent Vancouver Opera presentation of Eugene Onegin. Highly appreciated for her dramatic stage presence, Polish mezzo-soprano Agnes Zwierko, makes her Canadian debut as Madame Larina bringing to the role a “dark and homogenous voice…and a well-established stage authority” (operaclick.com). Rounding out this superb cast are Emilia Boteva in the role of the maidservant Filippyevna, Hugues Saint-Gelais as Triquet, and Alexander Savtchenko as Zaretski.

Stage Director Joseph Bascetta, choreographer Jean Leger, and lighting designer Louise Guinand, using Neil Patel’s set design from the new Vancouver Opera, will recreate the luxury and elegance of 19th century Russian high society on the stage of the NAC’s Southam Hall. Opera Lyra Ottawa’s Artistic Director and Conductor, Tyrone Paterson, will lead the National Arts Centre Orchestra and OLO’s Chorus.

Sung in Russian, with English and French Surtitles, performances of Eugene Onegin will begin at 8:00 pm. Pre-opera chats are presented free of charge to all patrons one-hour prior to each performance in the lobby. These offer an opportunity to learn more about the composer, context and historical significance of the opera.

The Story

Based on the epic Russian novel by Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin is the story of a melancholic young aristocrat whose restlessness and yearning for meaning in his life leads to heartbreak and death.

Through his best friend Lenski, Onegin is introduced to the young and innocent Tatiana who is captivated by this aloof and serious young man. She professes her love for him in a letter but is rejected by Onegin who admits he was touched by her letter but adds that he would tire quickly of marriage – the most he can offer is a brother’s love. Crushed, Tatiana rushes away.

Some months later, Onegin and Lenski attend a party in honour of Tatiana’s name day given by Madame Larina at her country estate. Onegin dances with Tatiana but is clearly bored by his fellow guests and their provincial sensibilities. To get back at Lenski for dragging him to the party, Onegin dances with Tatiana’s sister Olga, who is betrothed to his friend. In a fit of jealousy, Lenski challenges Onegin to a duel. Although both men privately admit they would prefer to be laughing together than fighting a duel, pride does not allow them to back down; the duel is fought and Lenski is fatally shot.

Several years later, Onegin finds himself once again in St. Petersburg at a magnificent ball where he encounters Tatiana. She is no longer the girl he knew – she is now a confident, poised woman, married to Prince Gremin. This time it is Onegin who rights an impassioned letter, begging for Tatiana’s love. In a meeting at the Gremin’s town house, she finds the courage to reject him. As his pleas grow more ardent, Tatiana rushes from the room, leaving a distraught Onegin behind.

Background Notes:

In this era of email, Twitter, and text messaging, modern means of communication are seemingly endless—we are overloaded with digital ephemera—but in the nineteenth century the letter was the primary means of sharing news and gossip, and of cultivating friendships. So it is not surprising that letters play a pivotal role in our understanding of both the personal and public life of Tchaikovsky, especially in the writing of Eugene Onegin. It was in the late spring of 1877, during a social visit, that contralto Yelizaveta Lavrovskaya casually suggested to Tchaikovsky that he might write an opera based on Pushkin's beloved novel. This was a timely notion as he had been considering composing a vocal work on Tatiana’s letter scene for some time. He enlisted the assistance of his friend Konstantin Shilovsky to help him construct the libretto and together the two of them worked out a text that maintains a great deal of Pushkin’s original verses. Tchaikovsky exploited the episodic nature of the novel—indeed he titled his work a lyric drama rather than an opera—offering up juxtaposed vignettes of pivotal moments in these lives for our scrutiny. Though flying in the face of dramatic conventions, the resulting work espouses the contemporary penchant for realism in opera, the Russian equivalent of Verdi’s Traviata and Massenet’s Manon.

Ticket Information:

Single tickets, from $39 to $165, are available from the NAC box office and all Ticketmaster locations (service fees will be applied). Visit Ticketmaster online or call 613-755-1111. DISCOUNTS: For groups of 10 or more please call Opera Lyra Ottawa at 613-233-9200 and ask about our group rates. Students with a valid Live Rush™ membership card may buy up to 2 tickets per performance at a discounted price. Tickets may be purchased online or in person at the NAC Box Office on the day of the performance from 2 to 6 pm. More information is available at www.liverush.ca.

About Opera Lyra Ottawa

Opera Lyra Ottawa is a not-for-profit organization with the mandate to produce and present opera in the National Capital Region of the highest quality and to promote opera as an art form, making it accessible to as large a segment of the population as possible through community outreach and education. Wherever possible, Opera Lyra Ottawa is committed to encourage, nurture and support Canadian artists. For more information please visit www.operalyra.ca.

Opera Lyra Ottawa gratefully acknowledges the generous support of our sponsors who make the 2008-2009 season possible. We thank Bell, Season Sponsor, as well as our other Principal Sponsors: Bel-Air Lexus, Rio Tinto Alcan, Sun Life Financial, and Ottawa Citizen; Major Sponsors: Arosa Suites Hotel, Custom Printers, Kolegram and Handa Travel. Opera Lyra would also like to thank the following agencies for their support: the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the City of Ottawa.

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