How do you write a love letter to an opera about people who write love letters? Friday night at the Orpheum, Opera Omaha premiered the final installment of its 2021-22 season, Eugene Onegin, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The production was absolutely stunning.
Director Rosetta Cucchi, created a triumphant and sensitive presentation of the story. Set in the 1950s instead of in its 19th century roots, epistolary action still propelled much of the thrilling internal journey of the characters. A fascinating foil was added to Tatyana’s character: Brenda Crawley portrayed the silent, older Tatyana, who recalled the tragic events from her youth which unfolded before us as the Onegin tale. Crawley was chilling, somber, deliberate, and highly effective. Alongside Cucchi’s slightly modernized aesthetic, the older Tatyana made the impact of loss, nostalgia, and longing all the more palpable throughout the production.
Lauren Michelle sang the role of Tatyana with victorious ease, and strength. Michelle’s power, and dexterity dance out of her voice. Her humanity is tangible, visible, and haunting. Her cast mates were just as gripping.
Alexander Elliot was seductive, and poignant in the title role. His tasty baritone timbre cut through the orchestra with delightful, and surgical precision. Hilary Ginther’s portrayal of Olga skillfully balanced the charm, and tragedy of the character. Her luxurious Mezzo-soprano savor ornamented the texture of the ensemble cast just like a favorite Christmas ornament.
Scott Quinn’s Lensky broke my heart, in the best possible way. His heralding tenor, carried passion, happiness, abandon, and destruction across the landscape of the tragedy remarkably. His performance demonstrated a beautiful instrument, and a natural dramatic insightfulness.
Pablo Santiago and Julia Noulin-Mérat conquered once again as the lighting and set designers respectively. A gently pastoral scene accented the characters’ humanity in the first act. In the second act an urbane contrast punctuated the bourgeoisie existential crisis which swept our characters into their fates. The entire time, shadows and sword-like, white rays of light moved the singers faces in and around their destiny. It was captivating.
Every detail was set as a perfect table. Victoria Livengood and Mariya Kaganskaya were memorable in their supporting roles not only for their sublime voices, but for their superb Russian.
In language relatively few Nebraskans speak, Opera Omaha was able to deliver a message that everyone on earth can understand. Delivered by sumptuous voices, and in pristine scenic nuance, Opera Omaha‘s Eugene Onegin is a magnificent achievement.
I stood up with the rest of the audience at the end to applaud the splendid spectacle. I hope many of you are as blessed as I am, not only to have seen the show or to see it on Sunday, but to live in an as enviable a position. Unlike the tragic Onegin himself, I hope you all have the privilege to understand the beauty of an existence you cannot completely fix, rather than to live a life you don’t have the imagination to endure. Tchaikovsky painted, and Opera Omaha further illustrated in vivid color, that in the end, luxury and poverty don’t differentiate amidst their tenants any appropriation of joy. Rather the trick and the conquest which Tatyana and Onegin ultimately fail to solve or to win, is one of understanding. What one wants and what one deserves are only ever justified by the courageous timing of what one is willing to sacrifice: pride, charity, pretense… their own expectations or the hopes of the people they say they love.
Congratulations, Opera Omaha, not only on a treasurable production, but a treasure trove of a season.
I grew up in church music and musical theatre. From my collegiate career and beyond I've traveled through opera, the symphony, the theatre and worship as a student, a performer, an entrepreneur, and a journalistic correspondent. I'm thrilled to have an opportunity to share with you some of the incredible and fascinating endeavors I continue to undertake in music and the arts. I don't need you to see the world the way I do, but I'll do everything I can to help you enjoy it as much as I have.