Buxton’s new regime launches with a visually intriguing and musically impassioned account of Tchaikovsky’s opera, set in mid-19th-century Russia and sung in cleanly articulated English.
New artistic director Adrian Kelly takes the baton for a masterly traversal of one of the great late-Romantic scores, with the Northern Chamber Orchestra and Buxton Festival Chorus both on thrilling form.
Steadily garnering a reputation as one of the most talented of the youngest generation of opera directors, Jamie Manton collaborates with designer Justin Nardella in a staging whose blend of realism and dreamlike fantasy – Tchaikovsky’s heroine Tatyana is often accompanied by the silent companion of herself as a child – exposes the emotional heart of the piece. The imagery is mesmerising.
Fleshed out with a couple of professional dancers, Jasmine Ricketts’ choreography is well delivered by the entire company, avoiding the mistake of turning realistic social dance sequences into fully balletic interventions. Zoe Spurr’s lighting sets the emotional temperature of each scene with precision.
The central roles are all well taken. George Humphreys’ vocally fine-grained Onegin displays the character’s sense of superior judgement – misplaced, as he learns to his cost. Her top register not quite firing on all cylinders on opening night, Shelley Jackson nevertheless presents an unusually involving Tatyana.
David Webb’s vulnerable, sensitively sung Lensky and Joshua Bloom’s warm, magnificently voiced Prince Gremin are both major assets.
Secondary roles – Angharad Lyddon’s skittish Olga, Gaynor Keeble’s concerned Madame Larina, Ceri Williams’ level-headed Filippyevna and especially Joseph Doody’s charmingly idiosyncratic Monsieur Triquet – all leave highly positive impressions.