Learning about the tragic antihero Eugene Onegin has been just as rewarding, not least because of my first, rather underwhelming, exposure to the opera. My parents took me to a rather drab local production when I was far too young for it, but, reading about the plot, the characters, and the live wire of emotions that underscores the music and the drama of it all, I still can’t understand how, even aged 11, I managed to be bored by it! Even in the more academic history of the work, I was surprised by the huge variety of interpretations that have been produced, despite most managing to stay loyal to the rural folk setting that is so key to the characters’ inevitable fates.
Discovering the in-depth histories behind these operas combined with a pre-existing love for their music has certainly whet my appetite for ENO’s season. Fiona Shaw, who directs The Marriage of Figaro, demonstrates physically all the madness of the plot in this ‘Folle Journée’ using a revolving stage – watch her discuss it on the Andrew Marr Show here. I’m especially excited to see Eugene Onegin as it features tenor Toby Spence, a personal idol of mine.