Opera Scotland

Eugene Onegin 2016Fife Opera

Read more about the opera Eugene Onegin

Fife Opera's annual production for 2016 is of Tchaikovsky's lyric scenes, and shows this thriving company to be in excellent trim. With a good-sized chorus (nearly forty) including a strong batch of young voices this must be the healthiest amateur group in Scotland at present. As in the last couple of seasons it has even been possible to provide two casts of principals, to give young singers, generally current or recent students from the Conservatoire, the opportunity to try out new roles and to provide extra cover. Most of the artists are familiar, though there are a few new names.

Onegin is an ambitious choice of opera calling for large resources. Notably there are two contrasting dance scenes - the Larins' folksy birthday celebration for Tatyana, then the grand St Petersburg ball in the last act. Singers, dancers and musicians are undoubtedly challenged by some great music, including the Polonaise, the peasants' chorus, Tatyana's Letter Scene and, of course, Lensky's final aria.

The opening night, when gremlins might be expected to appear, was remarkably trouble-free. Right from the prelude it was clear that the pit band, 27 strong, using the reduction of the score prepared by Derek Clark of Scottish Opera, was in excellent form. Conductor Alistair Digges paced the whole evening engagingly, and much of Tchaikovsky's beautiful instrumentation came over with an enjoyable subtlety. The simple sets work well - clusters of birch trees for the outdoor and rural scenes, with formal pillars added in the last act. Staging was efficient, with a couple of extra sequences in the party scene - a choir of very young children gave a spirited rendering of the familiar 'Kalinka' - in well-schooled Russian.

The opening duet-quartet showed that the first team of principal ladies was uniformly excellent, with words clearly projected. The first peasant chorus, essentially imitation folk music, also showed the company to be well-prepared. When the two leading men appeared all the difficult conversational scenes proceeded with confidence. Jonathan Kennedy, in the title role, has a warm-toned baritone and sang with great attention to detail. Kenny Reid's Lensky was clearly younger - a lighter voice, which was fine in his arias, if stretched slightly during the final crisis as he challenges his friend to a duel. Margaret Sharp did very well in the Letter Scene, and had plenty of power in reserve for the mature Tatyana at the end. Beth Taylor also made her mark as Olga, with some nice contralto tones. Among the other roles sung by company regulars, it was good to see one of the recent recruits, Brandon Low, as a youthful Triquet.

A return visit for the final performance allowed us to see the second cast, with a much larger and highly enthusiastic audience. The changes visible in such a situation are always instructive. The new Tatyana, Lisa Lulis, an American based in Perth, has a beautifully produced lyric soprano, and her elegance of deportment was particularly effective in the final act. The Onegin now had a lighter voice than the Lensky, but Steven Mackie and Ian McBain were more detailed actors, so that their argument had a greater sense of menace than before. McBain was able to fine his tone down to give a moving account of his last solo. The new Olga was more obviously flighty than her colleague. The performance of orchestra and chorus under Alistair Digges was as detailed and enjoyable as before.

When so many of our amateur groups are finding it tough to survive, this excellent company should be encouraged. The Saturday performance is a matinee, and Kirkcaldy is easily accessible from most Scottish cities. There are frequent trains from Edinburgh, Dundee and Perth, while the Adam Smith Theatre is just across the road from the railway station - and only a short walk from the bus station.

Performance Cast

Madame Larina a widowed landowner

Rosemary Nairne (Nov 2, 4)

Frances Taylor (Nov 3, 5)

Tatyana Larina's elder daughter

Margaret Sharp (Nov 2, 4)

Lisa Lulis (Nov 3, 5)

Olga Larina's younger daughter

Beth Taylor (Nov 2, 4)

Barbara Scott (Nov 3, 5)

Filipyevna nurse to the sisters

Elaine Young (Nov 2, 4)

Susan Crosby (Nov 3, 5)

Peasant

Derek Bamber

Vladimir Lensky a neighbour, engaged to Olga

Kenneth Reid (Nov 2, 4)

Ian McBain (Nov 3, 5)

Eugene Onegin Lensky's friend

Jonathan Kennedy (Nov 2, 4)

Steven Mackie (Nov 3, 5)

Zaretsky a retired officer

Malcolm Crosby

Monsieur Triquet a Frenchman, tutor to the sisters

Brandon Low (Nov 2, 4, 5)

Bryan McGlashan (Nov 3)

Trifon Petrovich a captain

Mark Adams

Guillot Onegin's manservant

Paul Graham

Prince Gremin a retired general

Russell Malcolm (Nov 2, 4)

George Nairne (Nov 3, 5)

Performance DatesEugene Onegin 2016

Map List

Adam Smith Theatre | Kirkcaldy

2 Nov, 19.15 3 Nov, 19.15 4 Nov, 19.15 5 Nov, 14.15

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