Edinburgh Studio Opera—the company that harnesses very talented students in Edinburgh and other parts of Scotland and puts them together with more experienced musicians—have consistently produced high-quality opera productions. Tonight’s production of Eugene Onegin is no exception. Under the experienced theatre direction of Robert Heresy and the musical direction of conductor William Conway, they give a delightful rendition of this wonderful opera.
Assembly Roxy isn’t the easiest space to stage an opera, but set designer Gabrielle Yaz Wood produces a clean-looking modern set that allows both the principals and the twenty-plus chorus to move smoothly around the stage. The director uses the whole of of the Roxy, including the central and side aisles, to stage the work effectively, and the costumes, which are simple peasant smocks for the women and smart suits for the men, work well. The thirty-strong orchestra, under the experienced baton of Conway, play well, with only the occasional wobble. And of course the music, by Tchaikovsky, is sublime.
The success of Eugene Onegin depends above all on a good Tatyana, and tonight we are fortunate in having Annie Loveday-Hill, who is a recent graduate of the opera school in Glasgow. She is a delight to listen to, with a powerful soprano voice that can, however, also be delicate. She acts very well too, successfully conveying the anguish of Tatyana in her love for Onegin.
Onegin is sung very capably by baritone Niall Kennedy, a recent graduate of the University of St Andrews who is about to do his opera training at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. He is very convincing, both vocally and dramatically, in expressing the arrogance of Onegin, and then in his anguish as he realises he has lost his love due to his behaviour.
They are ably backed by Connor James-Smith, as Lensky, and Alexandra Dinwiddie, as Olga. There is also a wonderful bass-baritone aria by Tambet Kikas, as Prince Gremin, and some good singing amongst the smaller roles. Of course, there are occasionally shaky notes in the smaller parts, but this is to be expected. Overall, this is a very good performance that would not be out of place on the professional stage, and it gets a very warm reception from the big first night crowd.