Clearly Moscow has no shortage of vital, well-trained opera voices or first-rate orchestral musicians. This much is obvious from the Moscow Novaya Opera Theater’s production of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” its contribution to the Moscow Arts Festival on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theater. The quartet around which the romantic work revolves is young and handsome, with rich fervent voices, and the 62-piece orchestra is superb.
Still, suggestions that this production is both musically and theatrically radical have been overstated. Yes, artistic director/conductor Evgeny Kolobov, who founded this new municipal opera company in 1991, has cut about 30 minutes of music and both intermissions from the opera, performing it in just under two hours. But Tchaikovsky has not been violated and the opera’s musical heart is as radiant as ever.Directed by Sergey Artsibashev, the production is anything but radical, except for its virtual absence of scenery. The opera is played on an almost empty green stage backed by blue walls with trellised doorways, some chairs and a table. The Empire costumes (not always well cut) are perfectly in period, and the opera’s high romance is intact, though the staging does seem rudimentary at times.
The musical side of the production is its greatest asset, made even more pleasurable by the intimacy of the Martin Beck theater (several rows of seats have been removed to accommodate the orchestra). Among the performers, Ekaterina Kichigina’s Tatyana takes first honors at least in part because Tatyana’s central letter scene is the opera’s musical core. The Onegin and Lensky of baritone Mikhail Dyakov and tenor Marat Gareyev are more than up to Kichigina’s glowing soprano lead, as is mezzo Irina Romishevskaya’s pert Olga.
Bass Tigran Martirosyan makes a splendid vocal and physical impact as Gremin, Tatyana’s husband. And mezzo Emma Sarkisyan, as the family’s Nanny, and tenor Dimitry Pyanov, as the French tutor Triquet, give lovely cameo performances. Only Yulia Abakumovskaya seems below this high level in a too-passive performance as Tatyana’s mother.
But conductor Kolobov is the star of this production (at the Beck through Nov. 30). He’s a superb conductor and musician, well deserving of the new opera house that’s being completed in Moscow for him and his Novaya company.