Wednesday, 18 July 2018

John, I'm only dancing

And so to the opera. I have been to see OperaUpClose's production of Eugene Onegin in a new English translation by Robin Norton-Hale which sets the action in the London of my youth. The ball at which the friends Lensky and Onegin fall out over a woman becomes, very plausibly, a teenage birthday party. In fact the more the action developed the more convinced I became that I'd been at the party it was based on. I didn't catch if anyone on stage actually sang "leave him, he's not worth it" or "who are you screwin', John?" (*), but they might has well have done; although I must say that it was all rather more tuneful than the Wood (**) used to be when I was a young man.

Indeed the singing was first class, the two principle men in particular. My companion for the evening was the lady who had taken me to the bassoon concert, but I am pleased to report that the small ensemble contained a clarinet as its woodwind element instead. The reduction in size of the musical accompaniment seemed to me to match perfectly the change in setting from a palace to a living room. If I have one complaint it's that in making the same change, the libretto became slightly banal.

In the penultimate scene Onegin and Tanya meet again for the first time seven years after the evening where he has rejected her love, danced so much with her sister Olga that the sister's boyfriend - his own best friend Lensky - is driven to jealous rage, the two friends fight, Lensky is killed and Onegin forced to flee into exile. All of which is summed up by the line "That evening ended rather badly". You can say that again.

* In the argot of the time, to 'screw' someone was to look at them in a challenging or disrespectful manner.

** As I may have mentioned in a previous post, the Wood was home to 'all the skins and all the hoods'.

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