(K. Brent Tomer),
IT WAS a sweltering evening in Charleston, South Carolina, but snow was falling inside the Gaillard Centre. The performance of “Eugene Onegin” on May 26th transported its audience to an estate in tsarist Russia and then, in the final act of Tchaikovsky’s opera, to St Petersburg. Consider the venue and the setting closely, though, and the mental journey becomes shorter than the weather made it seem.
“Onegin”, directed by Chen Shi-Zheng, was the opening showpiece of the Spoleto Festival USA: an annual arts extravaganza, featuring top-notch music and theatre, which this year runs until June 11th. Like St Petersburg, Charleston, the festival’s base, was once home to a storied aristocracy, members of which flocked to the city from their estates for grand balls. In both, the opulent lifestyles were supported by the backbreaking labour of others, serfs in Russia (until 1861), slaves in the American South. Mythologies have evolved around both of these compromised leisure classes, involving pageantry and elegance, gallantry and, as…Continue reading