Tchaikovsky’s most-famous Russian opera, “Eugene Onegin,” opens on Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Bankhead Theater on 2400 First St., Livermore.
The Livermore Valley Opera (LVO) production, with the orchestra conducted by Russian-born Music Director Alex Katsman and stage direction by Candace Evans, promises audiences an unforgettable experience.
“This is a beautiful opera about love denied, unfulfilled, and love lost set to Tchaikovsky’s best music,” said LVO Artistic Director Erie Mills. “This opera requires a powerful cast, and LVO’s cast is wonderful. It’s completely sung in Russian, but with the projection of English supertitles, the audience will not miss a word.”
Packed with memorable music, dances and a heart-stopping duel, Eugene Onegin tells the bittersweet tale of a love that could have been. In the 1820s, Eugene Onegin is a bored St. Petersburg dandy whose life consists of little beyond balls, concerts and parties. When his wealthy uncle dies, Onegin inherits a substantial fortune and a landed estate. He moves to the country and strikes up a friendship with his neighbor, a starry-eyed young poet named Vladimir Lensky.
Lensky takes Onegin to dine with the family of his fiancée, the sociable but rather thoughtless Olga Larina. There, Onegin catches a glimpse of Olga's sister Tatiana, a quiet romantic who is Olga’s opposite. Tatiana becomes intensely drawn to Onegin, and soon after professes her love in a letter to Onegin. Contrary to her expectations, Onegin does not write back. When they meet in person, Onegin rejects her advances politely, but dismissively and condescendingly. This famous speech is often referred to as “Onegin's Sermon,” during which he admits that the letter was touching, but says that he would quickly grow bored with marriage, can only offer Tatiana friendship, and coldly advises her to exhibit more emotional control in the future, lest another man take advantage of her innocence.
From there, the plot’s twists and turns lead to a deadly duel, before Tatiana visits Onegin's mansion, where she looks through his books with his notes in the margins, and begins to question whether Onegin's character is merely a collage of different literary heroes, and wonders whether there is, in fact, no real Onegin.
Several years pass, and the scene shifts to St. Petersburg, where Onegin attends a majestic ball with the leaders of old Russian society. He sees a most beautiful woman, who captures the attention of all, and he realizes that it is the same Tatiana whose love he had once rejected. Although Tatiana is now married to an aged prince, Onegin becomes obsessed with winning her affection. This time, however, it is Onegin whose love is spurned, as Tatiana leaves him regretting his bitter destiny.
The LVO cast features: American baritone Morgan Smith, known for his dramatic portrayals and the power and beauty of his voice, performing the title role of Eugene Onegin; Ukrainian-born soprano Antonina Chehovska singing the role of Tatiana; tenor Kyle van Schoonhoven, a recent graduate of the world-renowned Adler Fellowship at the San Francisco Opera, performing the role of Lensky.
On Sept. 28, an Opening Night Gala at Uncle Yu’s at the Vineyard begins at 4 p.m. (separate ticket purchase required). The gala includes a three-course dinner, with wines donated by Big White House Winery and John Evan Cellars, followed by a dessert reception at the Bankhead Theater, where LVO’s Katsman and Evans will be available to meet with guests and provide opera insights. Gala tickets are $95.
Tickets for Eugene Onegin range from $20 to $90. Included in the ticket price are engaging lectures held one hour before show time, along with LVO’s traditional artists’ reception in the lobby immediately following each performance.
Evening performances on Sept. 28 and Oct. 5, begin at 7:30 p.m. Afternoon performances on Sept. 29 and Oct. 6, begin at 2 p.m.
To learn more, visit www.LVOpera.com, or call the Bankhead box office at (925) 373-6800.