CU’s Eklund Opera Program and Symphony tackled Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin this past weekend at Macky Auditorium.
The three-hour masterpiece is not for the faint of heart. Propelled by the brooding, discontented Eugene Onegin, the opera traces how one man can create intense suffering for himself and those he loves.
“Getting to embody such a rich character in a world of music created by none other than Tchaikovsky is exhilarating,” said Brandon Padgett, the lead actor in the Saturday cast. “The result is transcendent.”
Onegin’s disgust with society borders on curmudgeonly — he is the ultimate Russian Grinch. Audience members chucked several times at his extremely ill-tempered nature. In one such moment, surrounded by joyful dancing couples and merry music in the Russian court, Onegin declares his inner anguish and condemns society’s lack of depth. He is a killjoy.
Padgett’s portrayal of Onegin was perfectly tormented. His rich, dark voice echoed through the auditorium, evoking feelings of gloom. His expression was frozen in a permanent scowl of disapproval and hostility. A smile never graced his dour features.
“Onegin is a complex character who is capable of being a good person,” Padgett said. “But Onegin is also a creature of consequence. He rejects a society that is blind to any depth that he possesses.”
Tatyana, played by Meagan Kilcoyne, is his polar opposite. Tatyana loves passionately and deeply and stays true to herself. In the third act, her elegance and grace is unsurpassed as she glides across the stage in a shimmering satin dress, an onyx fur coat resting lightly on her shoulders.
Kilcyone’s brilliant voice cut through the orchestra, shining beautifully on the high notes, her expressive face belaying her inner distress and torment. Her lyrical, heartfelt arias received whistles and thunderous applause from the audience.
The chorus added a light-hearted joy to the otherwise somber storyline. Their dancing, although at times a bit chaotic, filled the stage with life. Their energetic voices, every bit as lively as their dancing, blended well with the orchestra’s dramatic, booming sound.
Ironically, the carefree happiness experienced by the rest of society is almost attainable for Onegin, but his inability to move past his disdain and self-loathing means a happy ending remains out of reach.
“It tells the story of heartbreak from many perspectives, which is something that every human goes through,” chorus member Anna Hasil said.
“If Onegin accepted and forgave his past with all its failings, perhaps he could have been truly happy,” Padgett said. “Anger and apathy are defenses that can speak much of our own guilt. Relying on them as a way to ‘survive’ life is a fate worse than death.”
Contact CU Independent Arts Writer Isabella Fincher at Isabella.Fincher@colorado.edu.