Those Russian aristocrats are gorgeous but unreliable

The prestigious website Opera Wire has named Marina Costa-Jackson its Artist of the Week. The role is an major step for Marina, one of the three “singing sisters” who has appeared at McCaw Hall twice in recent years: first, as Fiordiligi in Così Fan Tutte (opposite one of her real sisters, Ginger, who sang Dorabella); and, last November, in a family reunion that also included her other sister, Miriam, in a program we described here as Sibling Revelry

Marina, in that stunning red gown, has now returned on her own for Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, an opulent production described by Seattle Opera as “a decadent Russian romance.” This is not about the starving peasants who overthrew the tsars, but the aristocratic extravagance that made the 1917 revolution inevitable.

In 2016 a young dramatic soprano won the Zarzuela Division and Second Prize at the annual Operalia Competition, launching her international career and making her one of the most promising singers of her generation. That’s how Marina Costa-Jackson vaulted into the front ranks of opera stars; the aria that launched her career was Lisa’s from The Queen of Spades. Now, four years later, Marina returns to the Russian repertoire for her role debut as Tatyana in Eugene Onegin.

A period piece, obviously, from a time, 200 years ago, when the world was quite different. “Habit takes the place of happiness,” according to the servants. The title character, Onegin, meets Tatyana at her country house. She falls for him and declares her love. He says nope, he’s not the marrying kind. (Footnote: neither was Tchaikovsky, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Subplot: Onegin kills his friend Lensky in a duel.) Years later, Tatyana is married to the aristocratic Prince Gremin when Onegin sees her again and thinks maybe he made a big mistake. This time she’s the one who says nope, too late. Oh what a fool I’ve been, wails Onegin. Nobody mentions the fatal duel. The End.

This production’s been kicking around for a while now, and some of its conceits seem to have passed their pull-dates. No point in having older avatars of the principals standing mute and “looking back” at the action. We know it’s opera, not Saturday morning cartoons. It’s a handsome piece of stagecraft, but Onegin himself is a nothing less than a pompous cad for all that.

Marina, Enza, Ginger
Marina (l) and Ginger Costa-Jackson with Enza Sorrentino in January, 2018.

The best news is that the Costa-Jacksons (who started their artistic careers in Palermo, Sicily) are returning to Seattle for even more lush singing. Ginger (who knocked ’em dead in Carmen last season) will sing Musetta in a new staging of La Bohème in May.

Alas, one of their biggest fans, Enza Sorrentino, the chef at Mondello Ristorante in Magnolia and Sicily’s culinary ambassador to Seattle, passed away last October.

Seattle Opera presents Eugene Onegin at McCaw Hall through January 25th.

Title picture: Marina Costa-Jackson as Tatyana and Michael Adams as Onegin; the Grand Ball. Seattle Opera photos © by Philip Newton.