The debut performance of the recently organized Independent Opera Company, led by founder/artistic director, Galina Barskaya, brought an enjoyable reading of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin to Westside audiences, sung in Russian with English supertitles.
Tchaikovsky’s lush setting of Pushkin’s beloved novel in verse provides enhanced intensity to the source’s emotional highlights. Much of the libretto is taken directly from Pushkin, allowing the sonic beauty of his poetry comes through to the careful listener, even without fluency in the original language. The story, of course, is very familiar to Russian speakers.
Conducting from the piano, Ms. Barskaya provided good support, and sure guidance was provided to the cast by stage director Scott Blois. The minimal sets were adequate, and the costumes, though not period, conveyed the relative positions of the characters. The cast for this performance was made up of local professionals, and the musical quality was generally high, and exhibited a clear understanding of the work’s drama.
As Onegin, Jay Stephenson’s baritone was robust and full-throated. He conveyed each nuance of Onegin’s character, ranging from his respectful rejection of Tatyana’s naive offer of love, to his reckless provocation of his friend, Lensky, and finally his deep regret for killing his friend and closing off any possibility of a life with Tatyana. An excellent performance.
Erica Lazerow Davis captured well the spirit of Tatyana’s letter scene. Katie Trimble was an appropriately fun-loving, thoughtless, clueless sister, Olga. Sarah Moore, as the sisters’ mother, Larina, knowingly dispensed the wisdom of an older, worldlier woman.
Jessica Mamey sang with a warm, rich mezzo voice as Filipyevna, the sisters’ nurse, and was delightfully ditzy as she tried to understand Tatyana’s desire to reach out to Onegin. She displayed a good grasp of the character in general. Mark Sauter was moving as Lensky in the Duel Scene aria, as he lamented the end of his relationship with Olga and contemplated his possible death.
Herve Blanquart sang Prince Gremin’s famous aria with authority on the joys of love and respectful tenderness toward Tatyana, his young wife. One of the pleasant surprises of this production is a small, but good, well prepared chorus.
The second and final performance will take place Sunday, July 1st performance is 4 PM at Lutheran Church of the Master, 10831 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. For this performance, Tamora Pellikka will sing the role of Olga; Alexis Wesley, Larina; Elizabeth Ackerman, Filipyevna; and Terry Welborn, Gremin.
For information and tickets ($10-25), please visit the company’s website and Like their Facebook page.
— Neal Dougherty
Community Reviewer for Lauri’s List