The whole opera is set on an open field with a forest at the back of the stage through which characters enter or disappear. The stage rotates frequently, mostly when laden with the large chorus appearing as peasants, guests or dancing nobles. There is little in the way of furniture or even walls, with the exception of Gremin’s palace erected in the middle of the field and hastily disassembled before the final scene. .
The Komische’s 2016 production of Eugene Onegin is surprisingly low-key, a far cry from Krzysztof Warlikowski’s Munich production—nicknamed Brokeback Mountain-Eugene Onegin for its gay cowboy elements— I felt certain that intendant Barrie Kosky would try to outdo in flamboyance and excess. Kosky’s approach to Onegin was instead remarkably restrained and centered squarely on the characters.
The lack of onstage wackiness comes as a relief after some of the Komische’s more recent questionable forays into staples of the repertoire, such as Herbert Fritsch’s vaudeville train-wreck Don Giovanni and Calixto Bieito’s gross-out soap opera Gianni Schicchi. In stepping back from the libretto—a libretto in which precious little actually happens—and working closely with his singers, Kosky provides an intelligent and respectful staging that runs the risk of seeming a trifle slight.