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Piotyr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin, opus 24
Mariusz Kwiecien (Eugene Onegin), Makvala Kasrashvili (Madame Larina), Tatiana Monogarova (Tatiana), Margarita Mamsirova (Olga), Emma Sarkisyan (the nurse), Andrey Dunaev (Lenski), Anatolij Kotscherga (Prince Gremin), Valery Gilmanov (Zaretski), The Bolshoi Theatre Soloists, Orchestra and Chorus, Valery Borisov (chorus master), Alexander Vedernikov (conductor), Dmitri Tchnerniakov (stage director and set designer), Maria Danilova (costume designer), Gleb Filshtinsky (lighting designer), François Duplat (executive producer), Chloé Perlemuter (video director)
Recording: Palais Garnier, Paris (September 2008) - 176’ (including bonus)
2 DVDs BelAir classiques BAC246 (or Blu-ray BAC 446) – (Distributed by Naxos of America) – PCM 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1 – Format: 16:9 – Region code: 0 – Booklet in French, English and German – Subtitles in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Korean

Depending upon subject matter or circumstance, Dmitri Tcherniakov turns a lot of heads. This DVD re-release had its origins at the Palais Garnier in 2008 (read here) with the first recording being released two years later (read here). The bonus segment tells much about the consternation M. Tcherniakov brought upon himself, often bristling with principals, in particular, Mariusz Kwiecien. The Bolshoi’s only other production of Eugene Onegin prior to Garnier had been performed for 60 years. Along with that came a generation of singers whose energies cast themselves into Tatianas (including Mmes Kasrashvili and Sarkisyan), only to now learn of M. Tcherniakov’s severe role changes.

Throw out the window all traditional expectations of Eugene Onegin. All action is hermetically sealed within one room and a focus on a single table as it “epitomizes the oppressive character of a normal life.” Those who have worked in the corporate world and gone through extensive management training will see the desk as a created ‘obstacle’ to interaction and camaraderie, thus, the barrier exacts an emotional toll upon a good portion of the characters. But it can also be looked upon as a conduit for candor and hopeful dialogue. Claustrophobic and devoid of external elements, the ‘vacuumed space’ immediately takes us to Tatiana and her obsession of Eugene Onegin. Don’t expect majestic dancing, rather prepare for a ‘human experimentation’ which consumes the psyche. Makvala Kasrashvili’s Madame Larina and Emma Sarkisyan’s nurse are given more weight with Françoise Duplat’s top-notch eminences taking charge of capturing facial nuances to the hilt. This becomes a key factor when arguing the case for Dmitri Tcherniakov’s charge with an entire conveyance taking on an Ingmar Bergman enigmatic aura.

The biggest gravitas surrounds Tatiana. Brilliantly radiating with a sumptuous voice, Tatiana Monogarova is a dismal wreck…we feel the dampers coming down immediately upon the opening curtain, and her dire circumstances don’t let up until she appears with grace and a bit of condescending cockiness in Act III. “The Letter Scene” has to be one of the most gripping enclaves of torment to land upon the stage: the viewer becomes smothered in her sorrow as she tries to write about and absorb all of her feelings. Emotionally, however, Tatiana quickly turns monochromatic and becomes a total inanimate object…adding a strong dose of tedium.

Mariusz Kwiecien manages to balance his directness with that of being over-wrought by arrogance. He cleanly demonstrates his independence and abrasiveness without overexertion. Tcherniakov over-expresses Olga and Lenski, yet it inevitably sets up the logical and tragic downfall of the latter. There’s tinkering with singing, specifically with Lenski singing those lines of Monsieur Triquet while acting quite pathetically…not sung in expected French, but, instead, using Pidgin Russian to exacerbate the mockery of the poet and add more fuel to the fire. While the effect works, it is utterly humiliating and makes the viewing a pathetic and nauseating exercise. No duel either. But the entire azimuth circulates around ‘the individual’, how forces of yin and yang take such wild journeys inside each and every one of us…there’s a lot of sense and scale as to the oblique angle the Moscovite takes with this Eugene Onegin.

Witnessing Dmitri Tcherniakov’s intentions in later productions is a mixed back, having critiqued Rimsky-Korsakov’s dismal The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh as well as a more enlightened and opulent performance of Glinka’s Ruslan and Lyudmila. When it comes to looking at Eugene Onegin, Dmitri Tcherniakov’s thought process is inventive and original, though it would appear this doesn’t eclipse into making it the most indelible and penetrating option.

Christie Grimstad




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