Onegin then and now

5th October 2013

‘On Saturday night I saw (and heard) the future of arts programmes.’

It is some five and a half years since I started my blog post Live from the Met with that line. The occasion was the first live High Definition broadcast from New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The opera was Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, with Renée Fleming as Tatiana and Valery Gergiev conducting. Tonight I was in the Clapham Picturehouse (in 2007 it was the Gate Notting Hill) to see Eugene Onegin once again live from the Met. Gergiev was in the pit once more, but Tatiana this time round was Anna Netrebko (above). How great is this?

Much has happened since February 2007. Met Opera Live in HD is now established as a key cultural offering across the world. Royal Opera House is among many other houses that have built upon the model. NT Live has extended the approach to live theatre – and on 13 November the RSC presents Richard II as the first in a series of Live from Stratford-upon-Avon broadcasts to cinemas.

As for tonight, it was absolutely splendid – apart from some sound problems in the opening set-up and a short sequence about halfway through when both picture and sound broke up badly. The glorious production is Deborah Warner’s, which was seen at ENO back in November. Sadly, an operation has prevented Deborah mounting it in New York, and it has been directed there by Fiona Shaw. Tom Pye’s sets look just as stunning as they did at the Coliseum, Jean Kalman’s lighting is immaculate, and Gary Hilvorson’s screen direction last night matched the stage piece perfectly.

There is, incidentally, a very good essay by Thomas May about the opera and the production on the Met’s website.

I am happy indeed that the Met’s experiment more than five years ago has borne such wonderful fruit.

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