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Eugene Onegin

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Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin makes a belated first appearance at LA Opera as the opener for the 2011 – 2012 Season. Based on Pushkin's novel-length poem, the opera is arguably Tchaikovsky's most popular, and the brooding title character has long been a magnet for star baritones.  


Onegin is a dashingly Byronic character who, like his English counterpart Mr. Darcy, allows pride to guide his life choices. He is handsome, reasonably clever, and his charm proves fatal to women. (Actually it proves literally fatal to at least one man – the best friend he kills in a duel). When an artless country girl, Tatiana, pours out her soul in a love letter, he spurns her with a cool condescension which mortifies her. Years later they meet again, and, in true I-want-what-I-can't -have style, he realizes her worth and that he made a terrible mistake. But, as she is a virtuous married woman, she has no choice but to send him away.  


The production originated at Covent Garden and evokes a highly stylized, though not updated, vision of 19th Century Russia. Anthony McDonald's sleekly fluid sets alternate between eye-catching landscapes and uncomfortably claustrophobic interiors. Dominating the mis-en-scene is a giant scrim depicting a series of famous paintings. Flandrin’s Jeune Homme nu assis au Bord de la Mer, which dominated the opening, cleverly hinted at both Tatiana's romantic dreams and the composer's homosexuality. However, McDonald's costumes, particularly for Tatiana, seem unnecessarily drab and lumbering.  

While Onegin is the opera's protagonist, there is no arguing the fact that Tchaikovsky placed the work's musical heart in the character of Tatiana. Oksana Dyka sang the role with ferocious passion and an authoritatively dark tone. Her letter scene was an exquisite example of solid vocalism and keen dramatic insight blending to reveal the soul of the character.  

As Onegin, Dalibor Jenis reveals a powerful and sturdy instrument. Playing Onegin requires a certain cool detachment, but Jenis is unable to hint at the complexity of the man beneath the exterior. Coupled with a lack of personal charisma, the role flattens out, making one wonder what all the fuss was about. Vsevolod Grivnov proves musically poised and dramatically affecting as the doomed Lensky.  

In a welcome return to the company, James Cresswell provides a beautifully sung and sympathetic Gremin while Ekaterina Semenchuk offers a properly giddy Olga. Ronnita Nicole Miller brings extraordinary dignity and generous sound to the role of Tatiana’s nurse, Filipievna, proving that, when artfully performed, even small roles can make a lasting impact.  

Francesca Gilpin’s efficient direction brings clarity without revelation to this idiosyncratic opera in which tragedy manifests itself with a whisper rather than a howl. In the pit, James Conlon conductes a thunderingly impassioned reading of the score which never lapses into indulgence.  

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion September 17 – October 9, 2011  










Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.