Review: Eugene Onegin by the Florida Grand Opera at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts

Courtney Miller and Chad Johnson star in Florida Grand Opera’s “Eugene Onegin.” (Chris Kakol / Courtesy)

Nothing beats a night at the opera for spectacle. Between the grand dames in their gowns bedecked in their fine jewels and the excitement in the air for the complexities of a multimedia performance, The Broward Center for the Arts makes for a wonderful experience on opera night. The recent  Florida Grand Opera production of Eugene Onegin, composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and based on the book by Alexander Pushkin first premiered in 1879. The production I witnessed at the Broward Center for the Arts transcended the historical moments

The three act performance was both a feast for the eyes and a heartfelt love story that drew on emotions today’s viewers are as likely to see in The Bachelor or Keeping up with the Kardashians. While operas across the country are struggling for funding and attendance by a younger generation of fans, often forgotten in the stories taking place on stage are the real-life epic dramas that transcend tastes and historical moments.

Love, death, suffering and all of their requisite emotions are universal experiences. The Florida Grand Opera’s staging of Eugene Onegin captured these elements and more in a delightful pyrotechnic display of music, singing and theater. The craft of Eugene Onegin is in the universality of unrequited love and the suffering of its characters.

Ms. Courtney Miller and Chad Johnson were especially poignant in their roles, singing with the grace, bravado and delicacy their roles required. The set designs of the production provided audiences with a sense of the phantom infinite in their use of lighting and clever billowing. The forest scene in particular complete with soft blue illumination and falling snowflakes made for an achingly sublime moment in the evening.

Attending the opera is a special experience. Between the finery of high society and the formality of the rituals in play (drinking champagne, small talk, anticipation) nothing resembles an evening at the Broward Center for the Arts for an operatic display.

Lost in today’s contemporary emphasis on accessibility, pedestrian entertainment and digital escapism is an appreciation and respect for the formal ritual. The Florida Grand production of Eugene Onegin serves as an emphatic statement of remembering, of recalling the importance of dressing oneself and one’s companion up to enter the shared social experience of high drama, music, theater, and of course, people-watching.

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