Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Three Hours of Lyric Flow: MWO at its Peak

Eugene Onegin

Mid Wales Opera , Torch Theatre , April-06-18
Eugene Onegin by Mid Wales Opera Aberystwyth in late February was the second venue on Mid Wales Opera's first tour for 2018. The savage blast of cold from the east rendered the coast road icy and the venue inaccessible. Happily, after Bangor, Mold and elsewhere, the company has come to Milford for its last-but-one stop. The result is three hours of glorious singing in a production of scale and confidence.

Director Richard Studer's costume design for the production is an Ingres gallery come to life. The men wear high stiff collars and flamboyant silk neckerchiefs. The women's dresses are high-waisted, the hair curled high in ringlets. For the party scenes they flit coquettishly across the stage in pure white dresses. The production has the benefit of a company of twelve so that the composite scenes have a density of performers to them; there is good work from Felicity Buckland, Chanae Curtis, Joseph Doody and Jana Holesworth. Dan Saggars' lighting is outstanding, whether in a palace interior or capturing the northern light of a Russian garden.

The diction in David Lloyd-Jones' translation is always clear and Richard Studer applies many a point of sharp personal to the direction. George von Bergen's Onegin has a patrician air to him, hardly able to give Tatyana more than a glance on first meeting. Tchaikovsky's second scene is a tour de force for Elizabeth Karani holding the stage alone for an extended period. She takes her character on its arc of maturity. At the opening she is a meditative reader of novels and impulsive letter-writer. By the third act she has moved to a position possessed of the grace for the renunciation of impulse.

As her companion in love's adventuring Ailsa Mainwaring is a flirtatious Olga. Sion Goronwy makes his late entry as Gremin with his deep bass notes conveying gravity of character. Robyn Lyn Evans' Lensky reaches an emotional peak with sentiments that are universal. “Happy day when I was young.” In this society of rigid class differentiation ruled over by claims of honour: “Why can't we stop our angry flood, before our hand are stained with blood?”

Milford Haven is as far west a venue as there is. In the last year Mid Wales Opera has
extended its range, performing at Milford's northern equivalent, Aberdaron. While “Eugene Onegin” has the benefit of a company of twelve and Jonathan Lyness conducting Ensemble Cymru the company has also innovated with its SmallStages strand. That returns later in 2018 with an unusual piece, Ravel's “L'heure espagnole.” In the meantime this impressive “Eugene Onegin” has a last date at Hereford.

The supporters assisting this tour include the Fenton Arts Trust, the John Lewis Chairman's Fund and Garrick Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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