What a wintry night to be abroad in Oxford, but how magnificent the reward for venturing out to the People’s Opera and Oxford Alternative Orchestra’s production of Eugene Onegin at St John’s College.
Described by composer Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky at ‘Lyric Scenes’, the opera’s story, based on a poem by Pushkin, was well known to Russian audiences when it was first performed in Moscow in 1879.
The brilliance of Tchaikovsky’s work is its characters’ intense emotions, powerful motivations and acute psychological insights that contribute to a tragedy of hope, rejection and despair.
Love is at the heart of the drama: initially fond memories of matriarch Madame Larina’s youth (Jenny Samuel) shared with her children's nurse (Antonida Kocharova); older daughter Olga (elegant Grace Lovelass) is already engaged to neighbouring poet Vladimir Lensky (poignant Dominic Bevan), while younger daughter Tatiana (excellent Alexandria Wreggelsworth) only knows love from books.
When Lensky introduces his enigmatic St Petersburg friend Eugene Onegin (superb Jack Holton), the tragedy gathers pace.
Music Director Hannah Schneider’s masterful pace and phrasing of the fluent orchestra made up of
Wonderful performances from the four leads, all highly accomplished professional singers, but also fine precision from the student chorus.
As we left the auditorium to step out once again into the ice and snow, it was fitting that all proceeds from the performance were donated to the Oxford Winter Night Shelter.