Good things happen to those who wait
It is indeed rare to attend an opera sung entirely in Russian, which is why this novelty was a highly anticipated event by many spectators last week for the premiere of this season of Yevgeny Onegin by Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky, d ‘after the verse novel by the immortal Russian poet. Alexander Pushkin.
Despite the lingering pandemic, now exacerbated by the Omicron variant, the house was packed.
Additionally, not only are the restrictive capsule seating rules no longer in place, there have even been two intermissions – a development unthinkable not so long ago, when cultural events first resumed afterwards. closures and intermissions have been completely canceled (to minimize mix-ups).
In addition, the exposure time was longer than usual, since the opera has no less than three acts and seven scenes, with changes of scenery between each scene. And at first it seemed like the performance would last forever, because at first the pace was slow, almost turgid. In fact, some people gave up and left.
Not that the first act was devoid of strong moments: there were a few animated numbers, with choral singing, in the first scene. The second scene belonged exclusively to the leading female role Tatiana, performed by the well-known Israeli soprano Ira Bertman (alternating with Alla Vasilevitsky). His letter aria was too long, but it had the counterpart of showcasing his considerable talent.
Those who stayed were rewarded for their patience, however. Things accelerated considerably from the second act, with a party in honor of the feast of Tatiana, where one sings, dances and – as comic relief – a playful and melodic ditty of the outrageously costumed Mr. Triquet. From there, there’s plenty of action, including the fateful duel where Onegin kills Lensky.
All the artists singing the main roles were outstanding, especially Ukrainian baritone Andrey Bondarenko as Onegin. Russian-born Israeli bass Vladimir Braun also received prolonged applause for her performance as Prince Gremin.
Unusually for an Israeli opera production, there were hardly any guest artists from overseas. Only two male replacements – New Zealand tenor Thomas Atkins, as Lensky, and Russian bass Andrey Valentiy, as Prince Gremin – were making their debuts in Israel. The director, Jean-Claude Auvray, is from France – and even he is a veteran of many Israeli productions.
It was clear that music director Dan Ettinger was settling into his role as conductor of the Opera Orchestra, the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion, replacing Dan Oren, who assumed the title. of winning conductor. The brilliant costumes – especially in the high society ball of act three – by Italian designer Chiara Donato, who previously collaborated in Israel with Auvray, added to the overall enjoyment of this sometimes heavy but ultimately very enjoyable repeat production. (relaunched after 18 years) of this classic 19th century opera.