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Eugene Onegin

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Welsh National Opera
Mayflower, Southampton
(2004)

Four hours passed in moments at Southampton's Mayflower theatre on Wednesday (31 March) as Welsh National opera's powerful new production of Tchaikovsky's superb Eugene Onegin gripped a full house.

It seemed possible that some lengthy interludes were not for scene changing, rather to allow an excited audience relax the tension of James Macdonald's staging of this famous Pushkin tale. Pushkin and Tchaikovsky together represent strong meat on anybody's menu - in this serving they are irresistible.

Not the least memorable of this altogether fine performance is the glorious soprano of Amanda Roocroft as a vibrant Tatyana. If only the girl next door could really sing like that!

Yet this is an evening when it is hard to choose from a strong ensemble of fine soloists. Marius Brencui, a passionate Lensky; Garry Magee, a stirring Onegin; with Suzanne Murphy's delicate cameo as Larina and Robert Tear, no less, as Triquet. Not until Act 3, for example, do we encounter Brindley Sherratt's beautifully measured account of Gremin's aria in praise of wedded bliss.

Designs by Tobias Hoheisel facilitate the moods of passing time and seasons, not least that of Lensky and Onegin's dawn duel in the snow.

Perhaps it should be no surprise that conductor Tugan Sokhiev (24), a Russian, whose first new production as WNO music director this is, should give the impression, at least, of such easy authority with this wonderful score. From daydream to declaration, from dance to drama, Tchaikovsky feeds it all.

This production is being staged at Southampton (3rd April), and Swansea Grand Theatre (6th & 16th April).

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole