When I was asked to go to see Eugene Onegin I did not know what to expect at all. I had never been to the opera. Yes, I was an opera virgin. Anyone who has seen or knows anything about this particular opera may have just bitten their knuckle with an expression of “oooohh what did she get herself into?” If you had asked me just what I had gotten myself into during the first act of the opera, I would have hung my head in shame and said I have no idea.
The first act started out slow with each character having a drawn-out scene of development, and with each I had a hard time understanding why it was so long. Onegin, who was the selfish, arrogant neighbourhood bachelor; Tatyana the shy but passionate landowner’s daughter; Vladimir the lovesick poet and his love interest Olga, Tatyana’s sister whom seemed flirty and vain. When the first intermission came about I looked over at Blue, my colleague at The Wanderer who was sitting next to me, and we were both thinking: where is this opera headed? Will there be more of these drawn-out scenes, or will the pace pick up?
No-one could have prepared me for what happened next. The second act blew my mind! A brawl caused by jealousy at the coming out party for Tatyana, and a duel between best friends leading to a very sudden death sequence. All of a sudden I felt so much for each of the characters and the snow falling, as the realization set upon Onegin that he had just killed his friend, caused shivers to run up my spine. The next intermission Blue and I became ecstatic, all we could have dreamed that the opera would become had just happened! Suddenly everything made sense, and the first act was much better received in retrospect.
The last act had two scenes that, I believe, summarized the opera beautifully. Though we watched Onegin break Tatyana’s heart, flirt with her sister and kill his best friend, by the conclusion, the Edmonton Opera’s singers had done a fantastic job of making us feel for him. As the play ended, we saw Tatyana say farewell to her former love, Onegin, as he is lost in sadness begging her to be with him, even after all he had done. When the lights on stage dimmed to signal the end of the scene and the opera itself, I realized I had been sitting at the edge of my seat and leaning in as far forward as I could. I had been swept up in everything that occurred and was almost crying due to the emotion shown by all of the singers and the music.
The minimalist sets were gorgeous and the performers did such a remarkable job pulling off every emotion and singing each song with so much heart. My first trip to the opera was definitely not in vain and I plan to seek out many more shows presented by the Edmonton Opera. I can’t wait to see what is next.
Photograph courtesy of Kelly Redinger