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Eugene Onegin, seen from the Royal Box

For reasons we need not examine here, my wife and I occupied the Royal Box at Covent Garden for the opening night of the Bolshoi run of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Since the Royal Family were in Balmoral, we occupied it on our own, and very comfortable it was.

The angle of vision is slightly limited – you don’t see right of stage – but you overlook the orchestra pit and can hear just how much of the fifth and sixth symphonies is anticipated in the opera score. The Bolshoi orchestra has a fabulous woodwind section, and its strings sound in pretty good form. Dmitri Jurowski, Vladimir’s brother, conducted.

The production is four-square Russian with minor variants. Lensky doesn’t get shot in a duel; he dies in a firearms wrestling accident with Onegin. Although the duel is meant to be in winter, everyone wears summer suits; and the entire action takes place around a large dinner table. All very Stanislavskian.

Few of the singers are known outside Russia. Tatyana Monogarova seemed to be playing Ophelia rather than Tatyana in the first two acts, but woke up in the third. Onegin was Mariusz Kwiecin, a sweet-voiced Pole. Alexei Dolgov as Lensky was the one who could act and the best musical moment came from Anatoly Kotscherga as Gremin.

It’s a classic Bolshoi show, on for another week. I’d recommend it to the Royal Family if they get back early from their hols, and I can assure them we left the box as we found it.

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