The first of two summer productions presented by Portland Opera at the Newmark Theatre begins on July 8 with Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. The Newmark is an ideal venue to showcase the simplicity and directness of Tchaikovsky’s “seven lyrical scenes,” which follows the relationships between a quartet of young lovers. Portland Opera has created new sets and costumes to frame director Kevin Newbury’s new concept, set amidst the decline and aftermath of communist Russia in the 1980s and 1990s. Performances are on July 8, 10(m), 14, 15, 17(m), 23 and 26.
“Do you love me? Check yes, no or maybe,” is how Newbury summarizes the story, often called the La Bohème of Russia. “When Tatiana’s world is first interrupted by Onegin, it is the early 1980s. By the time she meets him again in St. Petersburg it is 1990 – a year after the fall of communism. So much is happening in the USSR during this time period, and the setting raises the stakes for the two young lovers and their friends. I wanted to provide a modern context for the universal coming of age themes that Tchaikovsky explores, and let the audience see the familiar scenes of Onegin through the lens of the colors, fashion, art, and architecture found in Russia during the 1980s and early 1990s.”
General Director for Portland Opera, Christopher Mattaliano, is enthusiastic about Newbury’s unconventional approach to Eugene Onegin. “Kevin’s previous productions for Portland Opera – Nixon in China, Galileo Galilei, Postcard from Morocco – have been powerful and compelling, and enthusiastically embraced by our audience. We expect the same with this gifted director’s fresh look at Eugene Onegin.”
The cast for Eugene Onegin will feature members of the Portland Opera Resident Artist program (past and present) who are close in age to their characters, which brings a believable portrayal of the drama, jealousy, and passion of 20-somethings in love. Former Resident Artist are Alexander Elliott in the title role, and Jennifer Forni (Micaëla in Carmen 2015) as Tatiana. Current Resident Artists are Aaron Short as Lensky and Abigail Dock as Olga. The Oregonian called out Elliott’s performance in Sweeney Todd as “one of the most compelling voices of the evening.”
Eugene Onegin will be shown in rotating-repertory performances with Rossini’s The Italian Girl in Algiers on July 22 & 23; July 23 & 24; and July 26 & 27. Back to back performances are an ideal way for both local and visiting patrons to enjoy both operas.
With Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky attempted the overthrow of just about every convention of 19th-century Russian opera. In fact, he was careful NOT to call his work an opera, but rather “seven lyrical scenes.” It begins with a simple orchestral introduction, rather than a grand overture with a slam-bang ending. The story focuses on the relationships among a quartet of young lovers, very much like La Bohème. The prevailing mood throughout blends drama with an intimate and conversational tone. Tchaikovsky gave the premiere of Onegin to the students of the Moscow Conservatory which they performed in March 1878, conducted by Nikolai Rubinstein.
CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM
Tatiana, Jennifer Forni
Olga, Abigail Dock
Lensky, Aaron Short
Triquet, David Warner
Onegin, Alexander Elliott
Gremin, Konstantin Kvach
Captain, Anders J Tobiason
Zaretsky, Erik Hundtoft
Conductor, Nicholas Fox
Director, Kevin Newbury
Scenic Designer, Daniel Meeker
Costume Designer, Alison Heryer
Lighting Designer, Connie Yun
BEFORE AND AFTER EACH PERFORMANCE
These free and informative sessions, led by guest speaker Hannah Penn focus on the music and history behind the evening’s opera, to make each performance even more satisfying.
One hour prior to each performance | Orchestra level | Free
Immediately after each performance, audiences are invited to join General Director Christopher Mattaliano and guests that will include fresh-from-their-dressing-room performers, directors, and conductors for a 20 to 30-minute Q&A. | Orchestra level | Free
Portland Opera appreciates the continuing support of The James and Marion L. Miller Foundation, The Regional Arts and Culture Council, Work for Art, the Oregon Arts Commission, Meyer Memorial Trust, and the Collins Foundation.
TICKET and PERFORMANCE INFORMATION
Fri 7/8, Thurs 7/14, Fri 7/15, Sat 7/23 and Tue 7/26 at 7:30pm | Sun 7/10 and Sun 7/17 at 2pm
PRICE: Tickets start at $25
PHONE: 503-241-1802, Toll-free 866-739-6737 | M-F, 9-5, Ticketmaster, 800-982-ARTS (days, evenings, and weekends)
ONLINE: PortlandOpera.org or Ticketmaster.com
IN-PERSON: Portland Opera, 211 SE Caruthers St. (south of OMSI, east of Water.) M-F, 9-5, All Ticketmaster Outlets
RUSH: Students/Military $10 per ticket, Seniors $20 per ticket, Two hours prior to show, all available unsold seats. One ticket per person, valid ID required.