Eugene Onegin Staged by Skylark Opera Theatre at The Museum of Russian Art

Photo by Matt Bellin

Eugene Onegin is an opera based on a novel by Alexander Pushkin, the Music is composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky with the Libretto by Konstantin Shilovsky and Tchaikovsky. The english version which is what Skylark is presenting is by David Lloyd-Jones. With all Opera’s, I highly recommend reading the detailed synopsis which are included in the programs. Even though this production is in english Operatic singing is very stylized of vocalization and making out every word isn’t always possible. For me, the increasing joy I’m finding as I familiarize myself more and more with Opera, is the emotions of the moment. Eugene Onegin takes awhile to get going but once it kicked in at the beginning of Act Two, I found myself fully engaged. By scene 2 of the second act I was nearly in tears. Skylark’s production is presented in a unique environment, The Museum of Russian Art. The accompaniment is a piano and the set is basically a few tables and chairs. This is grand opera paired down to a simple accessible presentation. Well acted, beautifully sung and easy to follow, this is an Opera that doesn’t feel intimidating.

The story involves a wealthy country household consisting of Madame Larina, her two daughters Olga and Tatyana, and their nanny Filippyevna. Enter Olga’s suitor Lenski and his conceited friend Onegin. Lenski is genuinely in love with Olga and the feeling is returned. Onegin is boorish and dismissive of everything that country life has to offer. For some reason Tatyana falls in love with Onegin and the next day sends him a letter confessing her love. He comes few days later to reply to the letter, telling her she is immature and should not fall in love so easily. He dismisses her feelings and does not return them, Tatyana feels utterly humiliated. Later, all of these people meet again at a party given by Madame Larina. Onegin is annoyed at Lenski for bringing him as he is bored. To get revenge on Lenski he decides to flirt with Olga and monopolizes her time to Lenski’s dismay. Onegin plays his hand a little to well and after harsh words between Lenski and Olga he is challenged to a duel by Lenski. Onegin is a thoroughly dislikeable character and the audiences sympathies lie entirely with Lenski.

I’m not equipped to write about the quality of the signing, suffice to say that I thought they all sounded wonderful. Eric Smedsrud is very effective as the odious Onegin, you get a clear sense of his sense that he went too far goading Lenski, but it isn’t long before his arrogance gets the better of him again. Elena Stabile and Melanie Ashkar play Tatyana and Olga, both have beautiful voices and I was struck by how alike they looked, making them very believable as sisters. The heart of the opera for me was from the always brilliant Benjamin Dutcher. His portrayal of Lenski is the high point of the entire production. His emotions are true at every point, his unabashed love for Olga, his jealousy, and his pain at the loss of Olga and his impending duel. Dutcher completely engages the emotions of the audience and we are heartbroken at his loss.

Director Gary Briggle has done an excellent job of staging the production in this unique environment, the transitions are simple but clear and fluid. Music Director Carson Rose Schneider is a fine pianist and does justice to Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music. I really liked the costumes by Costume Coordinator Melanie Wehrmacher, after some poorly costumes productions lately I’ve taken to noticing this aspect more and I think Wehrmacher has done really nice work here.

Eugene Onegin runs one more weekend April 1st thru 3rd at The Museum of Russian Art. Your ticket includes access to the galleries and gift shop of the Museum when the doors open, one hour before showtime. For more information and to purchase tickets go to

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