The Music Academy of the West earned well-deserved standing ovations Saturday and Sunday in Santa Barbara for its performances of Tchaikovsky’s opera “Eugene Onegin.”
Everything came together brilliantly at The Granada in an opera that can please both longtime opera enthusiasts and those watching their first opera. The story blends humor and drama and makes you root for a young woman who has fallen in love with a man who might not return that love.
Tchaikovsky based his libretto on the novel by Alexander Pushkin.
The easy-to-follow story, the simple but effective sets, the colorful costumes, and the brilliant singing and dancing transported the audience to another time, another place. There the audience found timeless characters with emotions that ring as true today as they did in Tchaikvosky’s time.
Johanna Will was outstanding as Tatiana, singing brilliantly and embracing her character with sensitivity and passion. Samuel Kidd did a great job playing Eugene Onegin, the man Tatiana has fallen in love with. (The opera’s big question is whether Eugene feels the same way.)
Along the way, there were other story elements, including the glamor of high society and a party that set the stage for a duel.
Adding to the drama last weekend was the music by the Academy Festival Orchestra, which complemented the great performances by the actors/vocalists. The talented cast included Luke Norvell as Lensky, Joanne Evans as Olga, Eric Delagrange as Gremin, Sarah Margaret Dyer as Madame Larina, Maximilian Jansen as Triquet, Quinn MIddleman as Filipjevna, Alex Matthews as Zanetsy, Yue Wu as the Captain and Jonathan Elmore as Guillot.
The chorus, which provided the crowds for the scenes, also excelled in giving this opera much richness.
The entire opera, produced by the academy’s Lehrer Vocal Institute, came together effectively thanks to Daniela Candillari, principal opera conductor and the Michelle and Phil Joanou-endowed opera conductor. Peter Kazaras excelled as stage director. The opera also benefited from the work of choreographer Nicola Bowie, costume designer Molly Irelan, scenic designer Tanya Orellana, assistant conductor and chorus master William Long, lighting designer Pablo Santiago and assistant director Sawyer Ann Craig.
The entire team created a great setting for an effective love story and helped to guide natural evolution of intriguing characters.