Eugene Onegin

Národní Divadlo (National Theatre) Press Release

Eugene Onegin
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Premiere performances: 20 and 22 March 2009
Further performances: 27 March, 3, 5, 23, 25 April and 14 May 2009

Conductor: John Fiore
Stage director: Andrei Serban
Sets: Adriana Grand
Costumes: Adriana Grand
Chorus master: Pavel Vaněk
Choreography: Petr Tyc
Dramaturgy: Ondřej Hučín

Eugene Onegin: Vladimír Chmelo/Roman Janál
Tatiana: Dana Burešová/Wioletta Chodowicz
Lensky: Aleš Briscein/Valentin Prolat
Olga: Kateřina Jalovcová/Hannah Esther Minutillo
Larina: Galia Ibragimova/Jitka Svobodová
Filipyevna: Yvona Škvárová/Lenka Šmídová
Prince Gremin: Zdeněk Plech/Miloslav Podskalský
Zaretsky: Aleš Hendrych/František Zahradníček
Company Commander: Andrej Beneš/Pavel Novák
Triquet: Jaroslav Březina/Václav Lemberk

Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet of the National Theatre Opera

The opera Eugene Onegin returns to the National Theatre with an international staging team's imprint

Prague, 18 March 2009 -- On 20 March the world-famous Russian classical opera Eugene Onegin by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky will return to the National Theatre in Prague after a fifteen-year gap. The timeless story of the ill-fated love of Tatiana and Eugene will be revived on our prime stage in the modern conception of the international staging team headed by the director Andrei Serban and the conductor John Fiore.

Andrei Serban is directing Tchaikovsky's Onegin for the third time in his career (the first time he staged the work was at Welsh National Opera in Cardiff, the second was for Venice's Teatro La Fenice). He decided to reassess this theme for his Prague production. This time he is inspired by the world of contemporary Russia, in which tradition and respect for the past are still alive yet cynicism and disregard of everything and everyone are increasingly present. Andrei Serban therefore combines in his production scenes replete with poetic atmosphere and harsh, brutal scenes. In his conception, the character of Eugene Onegin is not a mere vainglorious misanthrope or arrogant dandy, but a man full of frustrations and inner uncertainties. Just like the story's other characters, he too has to resolve from within the dichotomy between his own ideas of happiness in life and the role into which one is manipulated by those around (or the role one feels oneself to be manipulated into...). The stage director was also inspired by the personal life of Tchaikovsky, who in the very year of the origination of Eugene Onegin was facing a difficult dilemma: to reconcile with his own homosexuality and live "on the margins of society" or to try to accept the traditional role of "man" and "husband"? Just like Onegin, in 1877 Tchaikovsky too received from a young girl a love letter with a marriage proposal. He accepted the offer, which in the months that followed had catastrophic consequences for his mental health. Many of Tchaikovsky's personal experiences echo the experiences of his opera's characters.

The Romanian-American director Andrei Serban, erstwhile pupil of the perennially inspiring Peter Brooke, has behind him a successful opera and drama director career in the United States as well as a number of European countries. He is known to audiences of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, for which he staged the operas Benvenuto Cellini and Faust, as well as to visitors to Paris's Opéra National, Vienna's Staatsoper, London's Covent Garden and Venice's La Fenice. Eugene Onegin is his Czech debut. The American conductor John Fiore, on the other hand, needs no introduction to Czech audiences. At the National Theatre he garnered rave reviews for the stagings of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen in 2005 and Puccini's opera La fanciulla del West, premiered two years ago. Serban and Fiore receive superlative back-up from the Romanian set and costume designer Adriana Grand, who, owing to a novel lighting design, has given a modern imprint to the new version of Eugene Onegin at the National, and the renowned Czech choreographer Petr Tyc. "I consider collaboration with Andrei Serban and John Fiore extremely important for the National Theatre Opera. Their experience gained at such prestigious opera houses as New York's Metropolitan Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Royal Opera House Covent Garden and Deutsche Oper am Rhein is a great inspiration and can be very helpful for us when preparing future projects," says Jiří Heřman, Artistic Director of the National Theatre Opera. This March marks the 130th anniversary of Eugene Onegin's world premiere.

Roman Janál and Vladimír Chmelo will alternate in the title role. Tatiana will be portrayed by the Polish soprano Wioletta Chodowicz and Dana Burešová. The poet Lensky will be performed by Aleš Briscein and Valentin Prolat. Appearing in the role of Olga will be Hannah Esther Minutillo and Kateřina Jalovcová. Other roles will be sung by Galia Ibragimova, Jitka Svobodová, Yvona Škvárová, Lenka Šmídová, Zdeněk Plech and Miloslav Podskalský. Participating in the production will be the Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet of the National Theatre Opera.

In the current season, the opera will be performed another seven times: on 22 and 27 March, 3, 5, 23 and 25 April and 14 May. Tickets for all performances are now on sale at the National Theatre box offices and the usual advance-sales networks. The opera is staged in the Russian original with Czech and English surtitles. For more information and photographs from the performance, visit

Eugene Onegin was premiered in 1879 at the Maly Theatre in Moscow, as performed by conservatory students (the work had to wait until 1881 before being performed at the Bolshoi). The opera originated to the motifs of Pushkin's intimately toned novel in verse replete with fine details and brilliant narrative technique.

"Tchaikovsky's opera is very close to Pushkin's work, even though it is based on different expressive means. It is not a mere succession of beautiful melodies, but a work with an immense psychological background. Tchaikovsky knew exactly what he was writing his music about, and we can see in the characters of Onegin, Tatiana and Lensky many a thing reflecting his own fate," says Ondřej Hučín, the new production's dramaturge.

Tchaikovsky deliberately did not designate his work as an "opera" but as "lyrical scenes". Concealed beneath the seeming banality of the story of Tatiana's unrequited love for Onegin is the eternal theme of human loneliness, the conflict between individuality and uniformity, ideals and resignation. This all is imbued with Tchaikovsky's brilliant, spellbinding and emotionally insistent music.

John Fiore
Born in New York City into a musical family, Mr. Fiore received his earliest musical training from his father, a pianist and choral director, and his mother, a singer. His family moved to Seattle, where he studied piano, cello and other string instruments. Mr. Fiore began his professional musical activities at the age of 14 as a pianist and coach for the Seattle Opera's annual production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. He later attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. In 1981 he joined the staff of the Santa Fe Opera, where he developed an affinity for the operas of Richard Strauss.
Within a short period of time, he became a prized assistant in North America's three most respected companies -- the San Francisco, Chicago Lyric and Metropolitan Operas. In the summer of 1986 he went to Europe, assisting Zubin Mehta for Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in Florence, and then to the Bayreuth Festival, where he worked with Daniel Barenboim on Tristan und Isolde, returning the next year for Parsifal and Tristan and again in 1988 for the Harry Kupfer Ring production. During this period he also freelanced as an assistant to the great Leonard Bernstein. Also in 1986, he was ready to begin his own conducting career, and he made his debut at the San Francisco Opera, conducting Gounod's Faust.
In 1996 Mr. Fiore made a critically acclaimed debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl conducting Verdi's Requiem. In North America, he has since conducted the Boston Symphony, New York Chamber Symphony, Seattle Symphony, and Toronto Symphony, to name but a few. In Europe, orchestral engagements include the Dresden Staatskapelle, Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Bamberger Symphoniker, Gürzenich Orchester, Orchester Rheinland-Pfalz; Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Firenze, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia; Orchestre National de Lyon, Orchestre Philharmonique de Montpellier; Orchestra Radio Svizzera Italiana.
John Fiore is the Chief Conductor of the Deutsche Oper-am-Rhein Düsseldorf-Duisburg. The 2008/09 season is Mr. Fiore's tenth as DOR Chief Conductor. Highlights of the season include new productions of Richard Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten, Dvořák's Rusalka, Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande and Janáček's From the House of the Dead, as well as revivals of works such as Verdi's Don Carlos, four further Janáček operas and Wagner's Ring.
Maestro Fiore was also the Generalmusikdirektor of the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker for eight seasons, concurrently with his duties at the DOR. He ended his last season in 2007/08 with a highly acclaimed performance of Mahler's Eighth Symphony. Elsewhere in 2007/08, Mr. Fiore returned again to the Prague National Theatre for a revival of Puccini's La fanciulla del West -- continuing a relationship which began in 2005, when he led Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen for the company, the first complete Ring Cycle in that company's history. 2007/08 also saw Mr. Fiore making his debut with the Norwegian Opera (Oslo) conducting a concertante performance of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung.
This season, in addition to his exhausting schedule at the DOR, Maestro Fiore returns to Prague for a new production of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, and conducts concerts in cities as diverse as Seattle and Berlin.
Mr. Fiore is particularly well known among the international opera houses. As a frequent guest of the Metropolitan Opera for over a decade, he led many works, among them the MET’s premiere production of Dvořák's Rusalka (1993, 1997) as well as Verdi's Aida, La traviata and Un ballo in maschera, Puccini's Madama Butterfly, La boheme and Tosca, Bizet's Carmen. In Germany, he appears often at Munich's Bayerische Staatsoper and Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden.
In recent seasons Mr. Fiore has also been exploring seminal twentieth-century works -- he is nearing completion of the complete cycle of the major Janáček operas, and has conducted Berg's Lulu and Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, to name but two. In the summer of 2003 he led the world premiere of Bright Sheng's Madame Mao (Santa Fe Opera, another company with which he has had a long history), and in January 2005 conducted the highly successful world premiere of Christian Jost's Vipern for the DOR.

Andrei Serban
Andrei Serban studied directing at the Theatre Institute in Bucharest, Romania. In 1969 he received a Ford Foundation Grant which took him to La MaMa Experimental Theatre Center in New York City where he directed his Fragments of a Greek Trilogy, which won several Obie Awards and was performed at more than 20 international festivals. At New York's Lincoln Center Vivian Beaumont Theatre he directed Aeschylus's Agamemnon and Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, the latter of which won a Tony Award for Best Revival.
He has directed at the Yale Repertory Theatre, the Guthrie Theatre, New York City's Circle in the Square Theatre, the American Repertory Theatre, in the United States, at the Royal National Theatre in London, Comédie Française in Paris, the Shiki Theatre Company in Tokyo, among others. He has worked with Peter Brook at Brook's International Theatre Institute in both Paris and Iran. He acted as general director of the Romanian National Theatre between 1990 and 1993, and has staged opera productions all over the world, from the San Francisco Opera to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Opéra National de Paris, Teatro La Fenice, Wiener Staatsoper, Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona, etc. Several of the operas he directed in Europe have been released on DVD.
His most recent opera and theatre productions include Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini and Gounod's Faust at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Massenet's Werther and Manon at the Vienna Opera, Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Chicago Opera, as well as Cleansed by Sarah Kane, The Seagull by Chekhov, Don Juan in Soho by Patrick Marber and Rock'n'Roll by Tom Stoppard at the National Theatres of Cluj and Sibiu, Uncle Vanya at the Hungarian Theatre in Cluj, King Lear at Bulandra Theatre in Bucharest.
His autobiography, published in Romania in 2006, reached its third reprint in 2007. A comprehensive photographic retrospective of his entire career, "My Journeys – Theatre/Opera", was published in 2008. Since 1992 he has been Professor of Theatre Arts and Director of the Oscar Hammerstein II Center for Theatre Studies at Columbia University in New York City. His 2009 projects include Turandot at the Washington National Opera and Uncle Vanya at the Alexandrinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg.

Petr Tyc
Studied classical dance at Prague's Dance Conservatory and choreography at the Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts with Pavel Šmok. He continued his education by studying with Merce Cunningham in New York. Since the very beginning of his career he has focused on modern dance.
Between 1983 and 1992 he danced at Pavel Šmok's Prague Chamber Ballet, between 1992 and 1994 in the leading British ensemble Rambert Dance Company in London, where he worked with the renowned choreographers Jiří Kylián, Gerhard Bohner, Richard Alston, Siobhan Davies and Christopher Bruce. Since 1994 he has been a freelance choreographer, dancer and pedagogue. For two years he taught stage movement at the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts and at the same time taught modern dance at the Dance Department of the Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. In 2000 he led the dance ensemble of the Theatre in Liberec.
His most noteworthy recent choreographies include the original production Dance Hall, or Dance Afternoon Parties for the Moravian-Silesian National Theatre in Ostrava (2004); the choreography for Gabriela Preissová's play The Farmer's Wench for Divadlo Na Zábradlí (2004, the production received a nomination for the Alfréd Radok Award); with the drama ensemble of the National Theatre Prague he cooperated in 2002 on the Shed I project as stage director of Sarah Kane's play Phaedra (From Love); he staged Neil LaBute's The Shape of Things at Divadlo Komedie (2002); at State Opera Prague he directed and choreographed Glass's opera The Fall of the House of Usher (1999) and, within a comparative evening, the operas Don Giovanni by W. A. Mozart and G. Gazzaniga (2001). For the production The Little I Know about Sylphs for the Theatre in Liberec he received the 2002 SAZKA Award for New Dance Artist.

Adriana Grand
Adriana Grand hails from Romania. In 1983 she graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Cluj. She has not only created set and costume designs, but also devoted to puppet theatre and film and worked as a graphic designer, book illustrator and advertising artist. Since 1986 she has cooperated with the publishing companies Kriterion, Albatros, Unitext, Dacia and others. Between 1990 and 1992 she created graphic designs for the Romanian magazine Teatrul Azi (Theatre Today). In 1992 she designed the costumes for the Hungarian Olympic skating team. Since 1994 she has been a member of the Romanian Theatre Union (UNITER).
To date, Adriana Grand has designed more than 150 sets for theatres in Romania and Hungary; for instance, for productions of Weiss's Marat/Sade, Anouilh's Becket and Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream for the National Theatre in Cluj, Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard for the National Theatre in Budapest, Marlowe's Tamburlaine the Great for the National Theatre in Bucharest, Verdi's Requiem for the Romanian Opera in Cluj, Ionesco's The Lesson and Shakespeare's Hamlet for the Hungarian-language Csiky Gergely State Theatre in Timisoara, Brecht's Mother Courage and Ionesco's The Chairs for the German State Theatre in Timisoara, and many others.
Adriana Grand is a holder of a number of awards for set design and has been conferred the Romanian Order for Cultural Merits.

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