Alexander Pushkin’s verse novel is one of the towering classics of Russian literature, making Tchaikovsky hesitant to set it as an opera even though he was strongly attracted to the story. He decided to approach the opera as a series of scenes from the novel, instead of fully realizing every moment. He attempted to avoid the full glare of critical opinion by premiering the opera at the Moscow Conservatory in 1879. It took two additional years before Eugene Onegin was presented at the Bolshoi. Onegin, a sophisticated and jaded young aristocrat, comes to the country to visit his friend Lenski, a poet, and attend to a dying uncle. While there, he captivates Tatyana, the shy and bookish daughter of a wealthy landowner. However, when she pours out her heart to him in an unbridled declaration of love, he cruelly rejects her. To further complicate matters, he and Lenski quarrel over an assumed affront, and the stubborn young men fight a duel in which Lenski is killed. Years later, Onegin returns to St. Petersburg after relentless travels to purge his guilt, and discovers Tatyana, who is now the beautiful and poised wife of a Russian noble. Onegin attempts to rekindle the flame that he had extinguished years earlier, but Tatyana refuses to betray her husband, even though her heart is broken. Sung in Russian with English supertitles.
Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Libretto by Tchaikovsky with Konstantin Shilovsky
Based on the verse novel by Alexander Pushkin
Conducted by Andrew Altenbach
Directed by Nathan Troup