Washington National Opera did indeed “discover” a Tatiana for our times in the ravishing Anna Nechaeva, whose voice is as expressive and lovely as her form. She is the real deal, a singing-actress of keenly honed talent and stage presence, who at one moment timidly darts across the stage like a startled bird, then buoyantly leaps up onto a bed like a jubilant child. She holds nothing back in her portrayal of youthful warmth and romantic fervor, then makes the whole auditorium feel her anguish and humiliation at the hands of a careless man. But she endures and keeps a loving heart so that at the end she gains a noble dignity.
I had expected the soprano to possess a powerful but thrown-back vocal placement and “heavy” sound as many Russian singers do. Instead, though there are delicious dark notes and depth in that voice, it is balanced with a forward placement that keeps everything bright and every note spinning out seemingly effortlessly.
In “The Letter” aria, Nechaeva navigates the sudden emotional and musical changes, committing herself to every musical and dramatic moment and all sourced from the character’s thoughts. She starts, hesitating, then chases mentally a glimmer of love but soon moves into full throttle, then commits, willing to throw herself recklessly at Onegin to save her helpless, romantic heart. At one point, she runs headlong around the stage, scooping up leaves only to fling them high into the air (and they scatter behind her,) then throws herself to the ground and rolls down the steeply raked stage, blanketed in autumn leaves. Overcome by her own exertions and realizing such passion is dangerous, she dives down into smoky dark notes of intense doubt and melancholy, accessing a strong mezzo sound.
- Susan Galbraith
, DC Theatre Scene