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A Very Russian Opera: P. Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” at the LNOBT



“I’m looking for an intimate but powerful drama” – wrote composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky before creating his opera “Eugene Onegin”, based on the novel in verse by Alexander Pushkin. “This story is not about Dostoyevsky; its spirit is closer to Chekhov”, adds a young and talented Russian director Vassily Barkhatov (b. 1983), who undertook to present his version of the opera at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre.

Despite his “improperly” young age, the director has no intentions to modernize the story (although, to tell the truth, V. Barkhatov himself could perfectly impersonate nonchalantly stylish Onegin of our days). Born in Moscow, V. Barkhatov graduated from the D. Shostakovich School of Music and the prestigious Russian Academy of Theatre GITIS. He worked on probation at the Komische Oper in Berlin and already directed 15 productions at such theatres as the Mariinsky (Saint Petersburg) and Bolshoi (Moscow). In 2011 he became a member of the Culture and Art Association patronized by the President of Russia.

V. Barkhatov claims that his main guide in directing this opera is what Tchaikovsky himself wrote in the musical score. In director’s vision “Eugene Onegin” is a timeless story: although the visual part of the production shall imply the beginning of the 20th century, the dramatic lines – meetings, separations, inevitable changes – are still very much alive today. Even a tradition of writing letters to our loved ones is now still going on in the form of text messages passed between young people.

What is the secret of “Eugene Onegin” that keeps the work so intriguing and makes it one of the most often staged Russian operas in the world? Maybe its charm comes from composer’s intention to create a “conflict of situations”, according to him, “of situations that were experienced or at least witnessed by myself, and that touched me to the very depth of my heart”.

The young director chooses railway platform as one of the most important details of the stage design. Here Onegin arrives from his journeys; here he also meets Tatyana, who is now a part of the nobility. When she refuses him, he’s left all alone among hurrying people who are traveling to and from, catching trains and minding their own business… “Such is the unwitty story of Onegin”, - concludes V. Barkhatov.

“I don’t think that Russian opera must necessarily be produced by a Russian director, or French opera – by a French director”, - says LNOBT’s General Manager Gintautas Kėvišas, “but in this case, contrary to the case of “Boris Godunov” (dir. Mariusz Trelinsky), I felt that Tchaikovsky’s opera written after the classical story of Pushkin should be directed by the compatriot of these two authors”.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s moving opera “Eugene Onegin” premieres at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre on 18, 19 and 20 May. The work shall be performed by LNOBT’s opera soloists and conducted by Robertas Šervenikas.


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