While Opera Holland Park is one of the most approachable companies in the UK, curiously it operates a more rigid language policy than almost any other outfit. Tchaikovsky’s opera is performed here by an entirely Anglophone cast, yet it is sung in Russian. With some good translations available, the show would be more communicative in English, but there are other issues preventing it from making its full impact.
Anna Leese (Tatyana) and Mark Stone (Onegin) in Yevgeny Onegin at Opera Holland Park, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
One is Daniel Slater’s misguided production. Moving the period forward to the last days of Tsarist rule, it shows the peasants on Madam Larina’s estate in rebellious mode - the Russian Revolution has clearly taken place between Acts II and III. Yet these weighty issues have no place in a piece that is unconcerned with matters of political change, they merely obscure the central narrative, which focuses entirely on personal relationships. As it is, the latter are poorly handled.
Add in some lukewarm conducting from Alexander Polianichko and it’s not surprising that this evening never really gets off the ground. Anna Leese struggles with the hefty demands of Tatyana, and her childish manner fails to develop. Peter Auty has more success with Lensky, especially in his finely sung account of the famous aria in the duel scene, and similarly, Graeme Broadbent’s dignified Prince Gremin presents a moving version of his solo in the final act. Mark Stone has the wherewithal to deliver an exceptional Onegin, but he too is hampered by the staging. In better circumstances, many of the cast could win through. Here, they have too much stacked against them.