￼Make no mistake about it – you would not want to be in Eugene Onegin's boots. Not only does he mortally wound a friend in a duel, he also bobbles a chance to be with the one woman he truly loves.
But great tragedy makes for grand music, at least in the case of Tchaikovsky's incredible opera, based on Alexander Pushkin's novel, with a libretto by the great composer and Konstantin Shilovsky.
Arizona Opera has brought the big guns to the duel, with David Alan Moore, a conservatory-trained baritone with the looks of a Hollywood superhero, and a résumé that includes roles in Don Giovanni, Billy Budd and Pagliacci.
Starring opposite Moore's Onegin is a soprano who's not only familiar to Tucson audiences, but also welcomed like the first day of spring. Corinne Winters graced Tucson stages in both La bohème and Roméo et Juliette. As the doomed heroines in both timeless works, she had audiences cheering her arias and choking back tears during her death scenes.
This time, the beautiful soprano with the stunning voice portrays a young woman who comes into her own as the opera progresses. But Winters doesn't see her character as experiencing a polar shift. "I think Tatiana was always an old soul, she was just very sheltered. She got all of her information on life from books and things like that. I think for her it's not a transformation that's as big as it seems – it is outwardly, but inwardly I think she's still the same person."
What definitely changes is how the title character views her . . . and how she reacts to him. "She put herself out there to him, and he rejected her. He was the love of her life, but she moved on because she needed to find happiness elsewhere. Too little, too late."
Fans who are used to hearing Winters sing in Italian and French can experience her in Russian with this role. It's not as big a challenge for her as one might think. "I've sung a lot in Russian because my post-grad program at the Academy of Vocal Arts did a Russian concert every year. I sang on that concert, as well as performed Tchaikovsky's Iolanta. I did that role back when I first started singing professionally. It's not as daunting as it could be, but I don't speak Russian, so that's always a hard thing – to kind of pick apart the language to figure out what I'm saying. I actually can read Cyrillic. I taught myself to do that, but I still have to have a transliteration; I can't really do it on the spot."
But opera is more than just words and music, and Winters is excited about every aspect of this staging. "I've worked with the director, Tara Faircloth. We did The Rake's Progress together at Wolf Trap. She's an absolutely amazing director. She's so smart and really, really great. I have no doubt it's going to be a beautiful production."
As wonderful as it will be to hear her performing to Tchaikovsky's haunting music, that's just one part of her act. On January 24 at 7 p.m. at the TCC Leo Rich Theater, Winters will perform a program called Canción amorosa: Songs of Spain. The material is drawn from a CD that she recently recorded (which she will be selling/signing at the concert). "It's an album of Spanish songs in Spanish dialects," she explains of the recording, which was made with pianist Steven Blier. "It's Castilian, Basque, Sephardic, and Catalan dialects. I'll be performing that and a few other things at the Tucson Desert Song Festival. I'm just super-excited to get to come and do all these random languages in one city. One night they hear me in Spanish dialects, and then soon after in Russian, so it should be interesting!"
The two times Winters has been here before she has been able to see a little of the attractions, including the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, but what she most enjoys is soaking up the sun at a time of year when much of the country is looking at gray skies and frost-covered ground. "Being in Tucson is an absolute luxury," she enthuses.