Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music will present Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. at the Morrison Theater at Brockman Hall for Opera . The romantic work is helmed by director Paul Curran with conductor Stephanie Rhodes Russell and the Shepherd School Chamber Orchestra under the tutelage of Joshua Winograde, director of opera studies.
Inspired by Alexander Pushkin’s eponymous novel in verse and the tumultuous events in Tchaikovsky’s personal life, “Eugene Onegin” is a work of intense emotions and brilliant musical invention. Featuring a libretto by the composer and Konstantin Shilovsky, the opera has remained a repertory favorite for more than 140 years after its Moscow premiere.
“Eugene Onegin” is a tale as old as time. When Tatyana, a young country girl with a penchant for romance stories, meets the sophisticated and cynical Eugene Onegin, she falls in love at first sight. He turns her down — but when the two have a chance meeting years later, Onegin is astonished by the poised and confident woman Tatyana has become and realizes he may have made a mistake. Will Tatyana return his love? Or will his earlier actions come back to haunt him?
The cast features Daniela Machado as Tatyana and Adam Partridge as Eugene Onegin. Gabriel Natal Baéz, Katherine Dobbs, William Dopp, Kellan Dunlap, Viviana Goodwin, Collin LaHood, James McCarthy, Kyubin Moon and Camille Robles complete the accoutrement of main characters.
The chorus includes Meg Brilleslyper, Adam Catangui, Hanna Frampton, Changchang Hao, Julia Holoman, Kyubin Moon, Kanade Motomura, Joseph Park, Edmond Rodriguez, Beautiful Sheriff, Anna Thompson and Lucila Zavala.
“It is thrilling to present such a big, important staple of the repertoire for my first production as director of opera at the Shepherd School,” Winograde said. “It is not an easy piece to mount, and we could not do it without an ace team of experts to guide the students through this challenging material, both the singers on stage and the instrumentalists in the orchestra pit.”
“The Shepherd School of Music has an unprecedentedly strong group of singers in our voice program,” he added. “Under the guidance of Paul Curran and Stephanie Rhodes Russell, who both speak fluent Russian and are adept with this composition, our newest faculty vocal coach Nino Sanikidze grew up in Tbilisi speaking Russian and Georgian from birth. If there were ever a time we could pull this feat off successfully, it is now.”
Curran, an award-winning director, is one of the most sought after stage directors of his generation. A graduate of the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney, he was artistic director of the Norwegian National Opera from 2007-11. As a freelance stage director, his productions have been seen at the highest level internationally, including critically acclaimed productions for La Scala Milan, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera New York.
Rhodes Russell recently completed a residency as conducting fellow with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra where she appeared regularly with the ensemble leading education, family and community concerts while serving as cover conductor for the symphonic subscription series. She is the recipient of a 2019 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award, designed to aid outstanding young conductors in developing their talents and careers. She lived in Moscow as a Fulbright Award recipient, working as a vocal coach at the renowned Bolshoi Theater.
Prior to joining Rice, Winograde spent 16 seasons as the senior director of artistic programs at the LA Opera, a position central to mainstage casting and artistic administration for the primary subscription season, “LAO Off Grand” series of events in alternate venues, “On Now” digital and streaming programming. He was also the creator and director of LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program.
“The Young Artist Program at LA Opera, a launchpad for world-class singers on the verge of major international careers, has been a star-making vehicle for many of today’s brightest opera talents. Recruiting many of those artists from Rice’s Shepherd School of Music over the years has contributed to much of the success of that program, and joining Rice is my ideal choice to enhance the artform,” Winograde said. “Even with my high expectations coming into this new role, the current opera students are blowing me away with their astonishing level of talent.”
As part of the Shepherd School experience, students receive top-notch interactions to elevate their future careers. The performers and crew involved with “Eugene Onegin” will have access to agents and talent managers from a wealth of the top recruiting agencies and the Houston Grand Opera, and they will take part in specialized master classes from industry professionals.
The Shepherd School’s performance will be sung in Russian with English surtitles. Tickets range $15-50 and may be purchased by visiting my.music.rice.edu/fallopera/19.