Last night the Met presented it’s last performance of the season of Tchaikovsky’s most popular opera Eugene Onegin. It was another well done show that save for one issue will fade into the institutional memory of the house without much to remember it. Igor Golovatenko sang the title role. What’s so special about that? He’s Russian and a principal at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater.
Didn’t Anna Netrebko get sent to Siberia for an offense of no lesser severity? Why is Golovatenko exempt? I don’t know, but perhaps it was because there was no available replacement at ready disposal. Or maybe it’s because he’s not as well known as his compatriot. Banning him would get no more than a yawn from the Met’s woke audience. Or it could be that the Met was so wrapped up in masks and other gestures that it forgot his origins. The show was delayed by about 10 minutes as an underling detailed all the useless measures that were imposed on its audience in the name of outdated prophylaxis. Virtue signaling can become reflexive. How President Zelinsky and Ukraine have benefitted from anything done by a house that sells a ticket for as much a $480 a pop is opaque. Wearing a blue and yellow lapel pin doesn’t make you a better person, especially when you’re spending an obscene amount for a seat in a glittering theater. So even if Golovatenko is BBF with Vlad the Impaler, he got a pass.
While I’m at it, a bit about Eugene Onegin. It’s found a spot in the lower quarter of the standard repertoire. The Met has done it 161 times in a little over a century. Anything by Tchaikovsky is of interest. The opera has some lovely tunes, is well done, but lacks the dramatic thrust that defines a great opera. The soprano has the best part and the best scene. The tenor has the best aria. Poor Onegin hangs around and arouses little sympathy or attention throughout the three acts. Great as he was, Tchaikovsky never really mastered opera as he did the symphony, concerto, and ballet. Nothing he did for the lyric stage can compare to Boris Godunov which has the dramatic impact of a planetary collision.