Nowadays the Met´s productions are sometimes open to harsh criticism but we generally get important singers in great roles. The HD Live performances seen on certain Saturdays at the Teatro El Nacional and presented by the Fundación Beethoven remain very attractive. The final two offered Tchaikovsky´s "Eugen Onegin" and Richard Strauss´ "Der Rosenkavalier" and both had admirable singers.
"Onegin" has been seen with some frequency in BA and has also been staged at La Plata. Based on the beautiful Pushkin verse novel, well adapted by the composer and Konstantin Shilovsky, these "lyric scenes", as Tchaikovsky called them, have a lot of wonderful music, particularly Tatiana´s Letter Scene and Lenski´s aria. If in the first two acts we are given the rural ambience of Larin´s estate and the stark duel in which Lenski dies, the Third Act transports us some years later to Saint Petersburg and to Prince Gremin´s great Ball; he has married Tatiana, and now it is Onegin who desires her but is rebuked.
The cast had a superstar, Anna Netrebko, and the sensitive baritone Peter Mattei supplanting Dmitri Hvorostovsky, unfortunately very ill, as Onegin. Lenski was a first-rate Russian tenor, Alexey Dolgov, who sung with style and acted very well. I found Stefan Kocan rather gruff as Gremin. Olga, Tatiana´s coquettish sister, was done very attractively by mezzo Elena Maximova. And two artists who were stars twenty years ago, gave style and knowledge to Madame Larina (Elena Zaremba) and Filippyevna, the wet-nurse (Larisa Diadkova).
Netrebko may be nowadays a bit too matronly for the part, but her singing and acting was so admirable that it didn´t matter, and her beloved Onegin was interpreted ideally by Mattei. The conductor, Ricardo Ticciati, was a surprise: young and very intense, he proved congenial to Tchaikovsky´s extremely Romantic inspiration.
Deborah Warner´s production felt Russian and was often convincing, but Tom Pye´s stage designs were problematic: the unit set for the First Act and the first tableau of the Second didn´t observe the libretto´s specifications, and the columns in the Third Act complicated Kim Brandstrup´s choreography for the Polonaise. Nice costumes and good lighting.
This "Rosenkavalier" was essential viewing for it was the goodbye to the stage of Renée Fleming after 250 performances at the Met and the last Octavian of Elina Garança, the greatest interpreter of this marvelous role in recent years. Fleming was still lovely even with small vocal fissures, and Garança was perfect in every sense. Furthermore, we met a valuable Ochs, bass Günther Groissböck, of healthy singing and funny acting, and there was Matthew Polenzani at his best as the Italian Singer. Erin Morley (Sophie) and Markus Brück (Faninal) were good. And Sebastian Weigle mastered the gorgeous score: a conductor to watch. Alas, in a few weeks we will suffer at the Colón with this Robert Carsen production: a sad travesty of a fantastic libretto. Nevertheless, he couldn´t ruin such magical moments as the final minutes of the First Act or the trio of the third: the music and the artists moved me to tears.
For Buenos Aires Herald