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Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin [De Nederlandse Opera/Jansons] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Opus Arte
  • Blu-ray Release Date: April 24, 2012
  • List Price: $29.99

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B0073WXSAC[/amazon-product]

[amazon-product]B0073WXSAC[/amazon-product]

Purchase Eugene Onegin on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Performance

[Rating:4/5]

Of the numerous operas that Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsy composed, Eugen Onegin is the most popular and accomplished work. Taking its start from a Pushkin poem, Eugen Onegin tells the story of its eponymous hero (Bo Skovhus) who meets a naïve young girl, Tatiana (Krassimira Stoyanova), during a visit to the country with his friend, the poet Lensky (Andrej Dunaev)who is engaged to Tatiana’s sister, Olga (Elena Maximova).  Tatiana falls madly in love with Onegin but her affections are not returned.  At Tatiana’s birthday party, Onegin unintentionally offends Lensky, leading to an unwanted duel in which the latter is killed. Some years pass, and Onegin returns from a self-imposed exile. He encounters Tatiana, now married to the much older Prince Gremin (Mikhail Petrenko).  Onegin now realizes that he is truly in love with Tatiana but this realization comes too late.  At the opera’s end, Onegin’s advances are rejected and he is now alone in the world.

This Nederlandse Opera production was recorded in performance in July 2011. Veteran conductor Mariss Jansons leads his Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Opera Nederlandse chorus most effectively. The staging by Stefan Herheim begins with the Onegin and Tatiana as they are at the end of the opera and then retells the story in a series of scenes from the past until they again arrive at the present time.  The sets center around a revolving series of glass doors within art deco walls that look like the entrance to a theater.  Costumes move between 19th and 20th century styles with some curiosities (astronauts, olympic athletes). Both sound and video recording is top notch.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The camerawork covers the ornate stage and its many artifices very well. Colors, and there are plenty in the sets and costumes, are quite gorgeous. There is good balance between close ups of the singers individually and in small groups. I do understand director Herheim’s concept of blending past and present during each scene. However, it does get rather old and by revealing the end at the beginning, the impact of Onegin’s eventual downfall is diminished when it actually occurs. Tatiana’s letter scene is dramatically eviscerated by having her eventual husband, Prince Gremin, tucked in their bed, while Onegin appropriates her writing table and materials. Visually, both soprano Stoyanova and baritone Skovhus look much much older than intended by Pushkin’s drama which undermines some of the opera’s intent. This is further underscored in the last act, when Onegin meets Prince Gremin, allegedly his senior, who appears more like his younger brother.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is the way to go here. There is a touch of ambience that is completely missing in the 2.0 PCM version. The singers are given preferential treatment and are clearly heard over the rather large orchestra. Since the quality of the singing is generally very good, I was glad to be able to hear them clearly.  It was also a pleasure to hear the orchestral dynamics so well reproduced, a trademark of maestro Jansons’ approach to music-making.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2/5]

There is a 30-minute featurette on this production that is, for a change, both interesting and illuminating.   A cast gallery is the only other filler here.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

Eugen Onegin is one of my favorite operas and, since it is so often performed, I look forward to new productions and interpretations. Here, I am afraid, is the rub. Director Stefan Herheim’s concept of mixing time periods in the drama just did not work for me. As mentioned before, the letter scene is the emotional high point of this work, and having Onegin physically intrude on the Tatiana’s bed room set simply detracts from the inner drama that is consuming this young woman.  That said, the music making is at a high level with particular high marks for Stoyanova, even if she looks a bit matronly for the part, for tenor Dunaev, and cavernous bass Petrenko. Vocal reservation must be given to Skovhus’s Onegin both effortful and occasionally off pitch. Maestro Jansons’ treatment of the Tchaikovsky score sounded consistently right with great pacing, avoiding the trap of sentimentality which can be easily set by such romantic music. There are numerous videos of this opera but only one other Blu-ray version is available. However, it is the Met Opera performance with the luxurious casting of Renee Fleming, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Ramon Vargas, with old hand Valery Gergiev in the pit. Vocally, it is the one to have in spite of the criticism that Robert Carsen’s sparse staging received in the press.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B0073WXSAC[/amazon-product]

[amazon-product]B0073WXSAC[/amazon-product]

Purchase Eugene Onegin on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

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