Opera Reviews
12 December 2019
Untitled Document

Boris Pinkhasovich makes a notable Vienna debut as Eugene Onegin



by Moore Parker
Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin
Vienna State Opera
21 November 2019
Boris Pinkhasovich (Eugene Onegin)

This subscription evening heralded two interesting debuts in the house - with Marina Rebeka and Boris Pinkhasovich cast for their first Vienna Tatyana and Onegin respectively.

Despite taut and energetic impetus from the pit, the opera’s introductory scene lacked initial impact and presence - unquestionably underscored by Katrin Hoffmann’s fully-exposed stage and lack of visual or acoustic support for the singers. Indeed, as the evening progressed it became increasingly evident that - in general - this setting demands an extra notch or two in vocal prowess to fully impact, and effectively span the blanket of orchestral sound intrinsic to the work and venue.

The discovery of the evening was the intensely focused Onegin of St.Petersburg-based Pinkhasovich - who, with less than a dozen leading roles in his portfolio - has already embarked upon a international career which has taken him to leading venues in Paris, London, and Munich. While pretty standard in definition, this Onegin was vocally well characterised and paced, embodying the technique and artistry of a cultivated Lieder singer with a richly-textured operatic baritone capable of significant emotional and dramatic expression. A debut of notable promise.  

As one would anticipate, Marina Rebeka’s finely-tuned Tatyana is well-considered and full of artistic nuance, nicely-maturing from the slightly frumpy bookworm to the elegant consort on Prince Gremin’s arm. Throughout, Rebeka’s stage work and sense of timing are compelling, and underscored by an impressive vocal showing which - while easily spanning the demands of the role - nevertheless remained a touch cool in timbre, and turning somewhat brittle when under pressure.  

Pavol Breslik well-suits this updated production in demeanour and style, his Lensky well-contrasting with Onegin’s stiffness through his fluid stage work and dapper ease. As relationships sour in the plot, he rises equally to the task, creating a truly credible character for whom one ultimately feels sympathy. Vocally, Breslik’s lyric tenor failed to ideally scale Lensky’s dramatic spectrum in this particular setting - both in timbre and dynamic range - with an apparent lack of reserve regrettably curtailing an otherwise well-rounded figure.

Ferruccio Furlanetto returned with his perennial Prince Gremin - ever astonishing in terms of sustaining power, range, and relative steadiness in tonal production. His showing is a reminder of the dimension which was standard in earlier years, with his great Act 3 aria receiving the warmest applause of the evening. 

As Olga, Margarita Gritskova is delightfully effervescent and charming - truly illuminating the young quartet of suitors, but - as generally cited - hampered in terms of vocal prowess in this production and venue.

The remaining supports  Igor Onishchenko (Captain/Saretzki), Pavel Kolgatin’s “Largerfeldesque” Triquet and Thomas Köber’s Peasant Leader well rounded out the cast.

Falk Richter’s 2009 production is faring well, with the Vienna State Opera Chorus’ vibrant contribution still fully evident, and Joanna Dudley’s (Choregrapher) acrobatics finding especially great approval among the smartphone users lighting up in the stalls. 

In the pit Michael Güttler led with taught lively tempi - tinged with a sense of avoiding sentimentality at all costs - while yet allowing comfortable leverage for the protagonists to take advantage of their big moments, where appropriate.  

Text © Moore Parker
Photo © Wiener Staatsoper / Michael Pöhn
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