Review: Seattle Opera’s Compelling “Eugene Onegin” Led by Michael Adams, Marina Costa-Jackson – January 12, 2020

For the Seattle Opera’s production of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” two pairs of artists sing the lead roles of Eugene Onegin and Tatyana, alternating performances. This review of the second performance supplements my remarks contained in Review: Seattle Opera’s Melodious “Eugene Onegin” led by John Moore and Marjukka Tepponen, January 11, 2020.

Michael Adams’ Eugene Onegin

Texas baritone Michael Adams, in the opera’s title role, created a vivid portrait of a self-centered and ultimately self-destructive aristocrat. Adams’ matinee idol looks and appealing lyric baritone were enlisted to define a character oblivious to the hurt he caused Tatyana, who believed she loved him. Nor did Onegin understand why his actions towards his friend Lensky’s fiancee Olga caused Lensky to challenge Onegin to a duel leading to Lensky’s death.

[Below: Eugene Onegin (Michael Adams) fires the fatal shot in a duel; edited image, based on a Philip Newton photograph, courtesy of the Seattle Opera.]

This is the third role I have seen Adams perform, each of which defines a man of strong ego. These include Mozart’s Guglielmo (Review: Seattle Opera’s “Cosi fan Tutte”: A Crowd-Pleasing Alternate Cast – January 14, 2018) and Kerns’ Gaylord Ravenal (Review: “Show Boat” at the Glimmerglass Festival – July 16, 2019). I am scheduled to see him perform a role whose ego is even greater at the 2020 Glimmerglass (New York) Festival – the title role in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”.

Marina Costa-Jackson’s Tatyana

Nevada soprano Marina Costa-Jackson proved to be a Tatyana of the first rank. She provided lustrous sound and vocal expressiveness to create an arresting portrait of the character. In addition to having an extraordinary vocal range and superb technique, Costa-Jackson is a persuasive actor.

[Below: Tatyana, now the Princess Gremin, receives an unexpected letter; edited image, based on a Sunny Martini photograph, courtesy of the Seattle Opera.]

Tatyana is the fourth role in which I’ve seen Costa-Jackson perform. Her choice of roles is noteworthy, encompassing Adalgisa (Review: The Dallas Opera’s “Norma” – Vocally Outstanding, Dramatically Persuasive, April 21, 2017), Fiordiligi (Review: Seattle Opera’s “Cosi fan Tutte”: Costa-Jackson Sisters Lead Convincing Cast – January 13, 2018) and Mimi (Review: A Beautifully Sung “La Boheme” with Saimir Pirgu and Marina Costa-Jackson – Los Angeles Opera, September 14, 2019.)

David Leigh’s Prince Gremin

New York bass David Leigh’s sonorous bass evoked the dignity of Prince Gremin, the nobleman who married Tatyana. “Eugene Onegin”, which contains the most famous arias for soprano and for tenor in Russian opera, also contains the most famous bass aria – Gremin’s Lyubvi fse vozrasti pokorni – which Leigh dispatched with elegance.

[Below: Prince Gremin (David Leigh, right) shows affection to his wife Tatyana (Marina Costa-Jackson, left; edited image, based on a Sunny Martini photograph, courtesy of the Seattle Opera.]

I had been impressed with Leigh’s appearance in the comprimario role of Zuniga (Review: Francesca Zambello’s Theatrically Compelling “Carmen” – San Francisco Opera, June 5, 2019). He also took part in an important world premiere, creating the key role of King Hjarne in Poul Ruders’ fairy tale opera (World Premiere Review: Poul Ruders’ “Thirteenth Child” – Santa Fe Opera, July 27, 2019.)

Meredith Arwady’s Filipevna

“Eugene Onegin” is the vehicle for the Seattle opera debut for Michigan contralto Meredith Arwady, performing the role of the nurse Filipevna. Arwady’s rich contralto resounded in the ensembles of the first scene. She was a charming presence in Tatyana’s bedroom scene, sharing her memories of times gone by.

[Below: the nurse Filipevna (Meredith Arwady, left) and Madame Larina (Margaret Gawrysiak, right) take part in a dance; edited image, based on a Philip Newton photograph, courtesy of the Seattle Opera.]

Arwady possesses the deep voice with accompanying power, that is required for several of the standard repertory’s important character roles, such as Mistress Quickly [see Bryn Terfel Triumphs in an Authoritative “Falstaff” – San Francisco Opera, October 9, 2013.)

Arwady is sought after for the big contralto roles – the earth goddess Erda and the First Norn – in Wagner’s “Ring of the Nibelungs”. See Review: Jay Hunter Morris, Christine Goerke Lead a Vocally Strong “Siegfried” Cast – Houston Grand Opera, April 20, 2016 and Review: Houston Grand Opera’s Spectacular “Götterdämmerung”, April 22, 2017.

Margaret Gawyrsiak’s Madame Larina and Other Cast Members

Illinois mezzo-soprano Gawyrsiak performed the role Madame Larina with distinction.

Tennessee director Stephanie Havey was the Tomer Zvulun production’s Associate Director.

My comments on others in the cast who appeared in both the January 11 and 12 performances were part of the earlier review referenced at the top of this page. These included Colin Ainsworth’s Lensky, Melody Wilson’s Olga, Martin Bakari’s Monsieur Triquet and Misha Myznikov’s Zaretsky. Maestro Aleksandar Markovich conducted both performances.


I enthusiastically recommend Seattle Opera’s production of “Eugene Onegin” to both opera veterans and persons new to opera.