Author: Becca Vaclavik

This spring, Eklund Opera invites you to choose your own adventure

For fans of classic literature, Eklund Opera’s 2018-19 season is already a megahit. Last fall, program director Leigh Holman kicked off the school year with a praised production of “West Side Story,” based, of course, on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” And this spring, she will bring two more literary adaptations to the stage.

Opening March 15, the Eklund Opera Program will present “Eugene Onegin,” a Tchaikovsky piece based on the Pushkin novel of the same name.

“Eugene Onegin” tells an enduring story of unrequited love and poor timing. A young woman named Tatyana falls in love with a man, Eugene Onegin, but he doesn’t return her admiration. Life goes on, as it does. Years later, when their paths cross again, Tatyana has become wealthy, successful and more beautiful than ever. (You can guess where this is heading.) Onegin finally reciprocates her affection. But is it too little too late?

“What does she do with that—with his waiting and not loving her when she loved him? Now he loves her, but what should she do with that information?” Holman asks. (No spoilers here; you’ll have to head to Macky for the answer.)

If you enjoyed “West Side Story” for its grand romance, this Russian opera is the production for you, says Holman. “If you love rich sets and costumes, this is the thing to see. It has a lush, bouncing, romantic feel, with big ballroom scenes, a huge chorus and serious star power. It’s going to a be a feast for the eyes.”

But If romance isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps a spooky story is a better match.

In April, Eklund Opera will present a much more intimate and theatrical opera in the Music Theatre: “The Turn of the Screw,” Benjamin Britten’s work inspired by an 1898 horror novella by Henry James.

“There’s a real difference with ‘The Turn of the Screw.’ It has a dark, shadowy, fringy feel,” shares Holman.

It’s a much more intimate and theatrical experience than “Onegin” offers. In the haunting chamber opera, a governess believes strange spirits are attempting to possess the children in her charge. Tensions rise (and so will the hair on the back of your neck) as this story reaches its bone-chilling conclusion.

To borrow another literary convention, the two spring operas offer an opportunity to choose your own adventure, Holman confides. Romance or horror, grand or intimate, Russian or English—there’s something for every interest here.

Our take? If the breathtaking vocals and heart-pounding action of “West Side Story” were any indication of Holman’s and the Eklund Opera Program’s ability to breathe new life into the classics, you won’t want to miss either one.

See “Eugene Onegin” March 15-17 in Macky Auditorium; tickets start at $15. See “The Turn of the Screw” April 25-28 in the Music Theatre. Tickets start at $20.