In Tchaikovsky’s tragedy Yevgeni Onegin, performed by the Bolshoi Opera at the Israeli Opera, the tragic is that the lead protagonists are not killed at the end, but doomed to keep living with their insupportable despair.

Dmitri Tcherniakov’s direction and sets were minimalist- realistic, abstaining from crowding the stage with superfluous details, and emphasizing refined taste.

Unlike commonplace crowd scenes, the choir functioned as a living stage picture. The opera’s predominantly somber mood, despite some ballroom and comic relief scenes, was poignantly conveyed.

There were some ridiculous details, though.

Why Tatiana, in her letter scene, should have thrown chairs around and sing her solo part on a dinner table, and why the duel should be fought around the same dinner table, of all places, remained an un-Pushkin-like mystery.

In the title role, Audun Iversen sounded impressive enough to make one understand why Tatiana should have fallen in love with his sonorous, dark-timbred baritone.

His polite, detached expression after the letter scene changed into convincingly impassioned emotional outbursts in his final confrontation with Tatiana, achieving a forceful though hopeless climax of the opera.

As Tatiana, Ekaterina Schcherbachenko made one wonder whether she might not have made Onegin fall in love with her bright, intense, appealing soprano if only she had had an aria already in the first scene – but then there would have been no opera. She, too, metamorphosed admirably – from a restrained, gentle girl in the first scene to a dignified, selfassured personality in the final one.

In the role of Lensky, Alexey Dolgov’s soft, expressive lyric tenor made his farewell-tolife aria a genuinely moving experience.

Though a minor role, Mikhail Kazakov, as Gremin, achieved one of the performance’s high points with his warm, dark bass in his love aria.

The Bolshoi Opera Chorus was a major hero of the performance.

Enchanting voices, perfect cohesion and impeccable balance were reminiscent of Russian-Orthodox church chanting in the opening scene.

Conducted by Vassily Sinaisky, the excellently coordinated Bolshoi Opera Orchestra excitingly contributed the work’s dramatic tension and emotional intensity.

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