Back in the USSR

The opera was adapted for the stage by Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky in the 19th century and the show is based on a "novel in verse" of the same name by Pushkin.

yevgeni onegin 88 (photo credit: )
yevgeni onegin 88
(photo credit: )
Five years after a successful run at the Israel Opera, Aleksandr Pushkin's tale of regret, revenge and lost love returns to Tel Aviv for a second time. Yevgeni Onegin was a huge success when last staged here in 2003. And, according to French director Jean Claude Auvray, once again at the helm of the Russian masterpiece, much of the material and the cast will be the same. Not to fret, returning patrons also have something to look forward too. "I tried to add some improvements about the ideas of staging," Auvray says, adding, "I'm going a little closer to the world of Pushkin and [Anton] Chekhov" The opera was adapted for the stage by Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky in the 19th century and the show is based on a "novel in verse" of the same name by Pushkin. Auvray says he was originally drawn to the play because of a deep-seated interest in Chekhov, who served as his introduction to the theater. After learning that Chekhov and Tchaikovsky were both contemporaries and admirers of one another, he quickly signed on to the idea of directing Onegin. "I jumped at the chance," he says. " I tried to develop more of a relation with Chekhov along with all of this Russian literature." The story of Yevgeni Onegin revolves around the eponomously named Russian dandy, who at first shuns the beautiful Tatyana. Later, he comes to regret it. In the first act Onegin, played by tenor Brett Polgato, is introduced to Tatyana, played by soprano Larrissa Tetuev, by his friend Lensky, played by Viktor Lutsiuk, who is soon to be married to Tatyana's younger sister Olga, played by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke. Tatyana immediately falls for Onegin but is shunned after presenting him with a love letter. The second act sees Onegin forced into a duel with Lensky after a flirtatious encounter between Onegin and Olga. "He is a vile, crafty, heartless betrayer," the tenor sings in the libretto, "He shall be punished." Despite their own reservations, the two parties are forced to duel because of tradition, an oft repeated theme in Russian literature. By the third and final act, Onegin, now forlorn over the death of his friend, meets again with Tatyana some years later. The roles are reversed this time though as Tatyana, now a married aristocrat, pushes Onegin away, questioning his intentions. "For me, this is a masterpiece. I love it as much as I love the novel," Auvray says. The cast, it should be noted, is composed mainly of Russians and Israelis, with the exception of Polgato, a Canadian. "It's not his language of course, but he's at the level of the others," says Auvray of his star Canuck, who has performed this role on stages around the world. "We were lucky to find somebody who knows the part so well," adds the director. The stage, once again, is dressed by Alexander Lisyanski, who was critically lauded for his set design the first time around. "My condition was to work with a Russian designer," Auvray says. "It was more or less his first opera. It's very interesting to work with somebody who knows Russian culture so well." Auvray thinks Onegin's appeal is a product of Israel's large and demanding Russian ex-pat population. "They are happy to have an opera in Russian here. It reminds them of their childhoods and," he says, "I hope they will come again to see it a second time." Yevgeni Onegin opens Tuesday, June 24 at 8 p.m. at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center (19 Shaul Hameleh Blvd., (03) 692-7777) and runs through July 5. For more information visit