On a cool, sunny Sunday afternoon in February, people dressed in everything from parkas and hoodies to suit jackets and sequined dresses lined up outside The Egyptian Theatre for the matinee performance of Opera Idaho's Evgeny Onegin, an opera adapted by Pyotr Tchaikovsky from the verse novel of the same name by Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. The opera, which premiered in 1879, is sung entirely in Russian (this production had supertitles) and combined with its plot of unrequited love and its centuries-old setting, it's not an easy story for an urban 21st century audience to connect with. Art, however, is transcendent and thanks to Opera Idaho General Director Mark Junkert bringing in some incredible talent for the principal roles—including stage director Dmitry Troyanovsky and conductor Sara Jobin—it was especially so in this production.
Baritone Gregory Gerbrandt infused the opera's title role with an air of aristocracy that, combined with his rich, pitch-perfect tone, allowed for a near-complete suspension of disbelief. In her dulcet declarations of love and loss, soprano Marina Harris gave the broken-hearted Tatyana an authenticity that elicited an emotional response from more than one audience member, as did tenor Alexander Boyer, whose cuckolded Lensky was imbued with a genuine struggle between pride and piteousness.
The high-caliber of Evgeny Onegin promises to be repeated in Opera Idaho's 2015-16 season, when the company presents The Magic Flute (Mozart), The Pirates of Penzance (Gilbert and Sullivan), Amahl and the Night Visitors (Menotti), Glory Denied (Cipullo) and a particularly special season-headlining performance of Verdi's La Traviata, starring soprano Cecilia Violetta Lopez, who made her Idaho professional debut in the role of Gilda in Opera Idaho's Rigoletto (see BW, Citizen, Cecilia Violetta Lopez, Feb. 25, 2015).