The selfish aristocrat Onegin rejects the country girl Tatyana. She grows into a worldly woman and marries Prince Gremin. Onegin realises that he loves her but this time she rejects him.
Tatyana and her younger sister Olga live outside St Petersburg on a
country estate together with their mother. Lensky, who is engaged to Olga,
and his friend Onegin, visit the estate. Tatyana falls in love with
Onegin. Her love is not reciprocated.
Lensky and Onegin become enemies because of a jealousy drama at a ball at the country estate. Lensky challenges Onegin to a duel which ends with Lensky dying.
Five years pass before Tatyana and Onegin meet again at a ball in St Petersburg. Onegin realises that he loves Tatyana. She is now married to Prince Gremin and is determined to stay faithful. She still loves Onegin but bids him a final farewell. He is left in despair.
Opera in 3 acts
Sung in Russian
About 2 hours 35 min + intervals
St Petersburg and the surrounding countryside in the 1820s.
Madame Larina’s country estate
In the garden Madame Larina and nurse Filippyevna are listening to the sound of Larina’s daughter’s, Tatyana
and Olga, as they sing a love song. Madame Larina is reminded of her past, reminiscing about courtship and
marriage. Tatyana and Olga watches as the peasants celebrate the harvest with song and dance. Tatyana, a
dreamer and a bookworm, is completely absorbed in a romantic novel while Olga is eager to join the
celebrations. Tatyana’s mother try to explain to her that real life is not as in the novels.
Olga’s fiancé Lensky, a young poet, and his friend Eugene Onegin arrive at the estate. Onegin is introduced to the Larina family and Tatyana is instantly smitten. Onegin is curious to why Lensky prefers Olga to Tatyana. Lensky is happy to see Olga, even though they’ve only been apart for a day. Onegin asks Tatyana if she’s bored of living in the countryside without any entertainment. He also explains that his uncle has died and therefore he’s received an inheritance of a nearby estate. Filippyevna concludes that Onegin has caught Tatyana’s fancy.
Tatyana is about to go to bed but she is restless and cannot sleep. She asks her nurse Filippyevna to tell her about her youth and love life. Tatyana confesses to being in love with Onegin. When she’s on her own, she pours her emotions into a letter addressed to Onegin. A shepherd’s pipe is heard at dawn. When Filippyevna comes to wake Tatyana she desperately asks her to send her grandson to deliver the letter to Onegin.
A corner in the garden of the country estate
Servant girls are picking fruit and singing as they work. Tatyana is anxiously waiting for Onegin to arrive. He is coming to respond to Tatyana’s letter. Onegin explains to her that he is unworthy of her love and that he is not suited for marriage. He also lets her know that she shouldn’t wear her heart on her sleeve in the future. He leaves and she is crushed. The servant girls are once again heard singing in the background.
The ballroom of Madame Larina’s house
There is a ball to celebrate the name day of Tatyana. Onegin and Tatyana are dancing together but he gets annoyed when he overhears the gossip about the two being in love. He is also angry with Lensky who persuaded him to come along. He starts dancing and flirting with Olga. Lensky is jealous and confronts Olga. Olga thinks that Lensky is ridiculous and when Onegin again asks her for a dance, she accepts. The French tutor Triquet sings some couplets after which Lensky and Onegin get into a heated argument. Lensky ends his friendship with Onegin and challenges him to a duel. Onegin feels forced to accept the duel even though he knows that he was in the wrong. The ball ends and Tatyana collapses.
On the banks of a wooded stream, early morning
Lensky and Onegin are about to meet for a duel. Lensky arrives first with his Second Zaretsky. He reflects on his life and his love for Olga. Onegin appears with his manservant Guillot. Both Lensky and Onegin are reluctant to go through with the duel but neither decide to stop it. At Zaretsky’s signal their guns go off and Lensky falls down dead.
Five years later at the house of a nobleman in St Petersburg
Five years have passed during which Onegin has spent most of his time travelling through Europe. He stands alone at the ball reminiscing the past, regretting the death of Lensky. Tatyana enters with her husband, Prince Gremin. Onegin is struck by her beauty and elegance. Tatyana is overwhelmed with emotions at seeing Onegin but manages to suppress them, just as he once advised her to. Gremin tells Onegin of his big love for Tatyana and introduces the two, not knowing of their common past. Onegin is in love with Tatyana and decide to write her a letter to arrange a meeting.
A room in Prince Gremin’s house
Tatyana is filled with emotions after having read Onegin’s letter expressing his love for her. She is confused and wants to find out why he’s contacted her and if her new social status has affected his feelings towards her. Onegin assures her that his intentions are honest and that he truly loves her. Onegin’s words bring her to tears. Tatyana is distraught. She still loves Onegin but it’s too late. She is married and therefore asks him to leave. She bids him a final farewell and leaves him in despair.
Eugene Onegin – Baritone (lyric)
An aristocrat who reciprocates Tatyana’s love too late.
Tatyana – Soprano (lyric)
Daughter of Madame Larina, Olga’s older sister, a dreamer who loves reading, falls in love with Onegin
Vladimir Lensky – Baritone (lyric)
A young poet, Olga’s fiancé, friends with Onegin
Olga – Contralto
Daughter of Madame Larina, Tatyana’s younger sister, Lensky’s fiancée, outgoing and carefree
Prince Gremin – Bass (lyric)
A retired general, future husband of Tatyana
Triquet – Tenor (buffo)
An elderly French tutor employed by Madame Larina
Filippyevna – Mezzo-soprano
Madame Larina – Mezzo-soprano
A widow, mother of Tatyana and Olga, owner of a country estate
Zaretsky - Bass
Lensky’s second in the duel
Place of birth: Votkinsk, Russia
Place of death: St Petersburg
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer of the Romantic period. His most famous opera, Eugene
Onegin, is one of the top 20 most performed operas worldwide. He wrote 11 operas, 3 ballets, 6
symphonies, concertos for piano, violin and cello, choral works, string quartets, and more than 100 songs
and piano pieces. He is the most popular Russian composer of all time.
Although achieving great success as a composer, Tchaikovsky experienced hardships in his personal life. He battled depression and he struggled to live as a homosexual in a time when it was forbidden and socially unacceptable. At the age of 14 his mother died of cholera, hugely affecting the rest of his life. He was sent away to boarding school for nine years at the age of 10 to study to become a civil servant. He married a woman to fit into conventions, a marriage that would only last a few months.
In 1876 Tchaikovsky came in contact with Nadezhda von Meck, a wealthy widow and an admirer of Tchaikovsky’s music. An extraordinary relationship developed. They never met but sent each other over 1000 letters. She supported Tchaikovsky’s career financially for almost 14 years.
Tchaikovsky probably died of cholera but some believe that he committed suicide. He was 53 years old.
“To regret the past, to hope in the future, and never to be satisfied with the present: that is what I spend my whole life doing.”
Tchaikovsky suffered from stage fright and antisocial behaviour. As a guest conductor he feared that his head would fall off his body. Therefore, he sometimes held it with his hand while conducting.
Most prominent operas
The libretto is based on the novel Eugene Onegin by the great Russian poet, playwright and novelist Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837). Tchaikovsky organised and rearranged the original text preserving much of the original verse. Shilovsky, a close friend of Tchaikovsky, contributed with adding text to Triquet’s couplets in act 2.
2+1, 2, 2, 2 - 4, 2, 3, 0
timp, harp, strings
Eugene Onegin is a lyric opera, known for its beautiful music and lines. It is the most performed Russian
The opera singer Yelizaveta Lavrovskaya approached Tchaikovsky in 1877 suggesting that he write an opera based on Pushkin’s novel Eugene Onegin. Tchaikovsky was not too interested to begin with but gradually grew warm to the idea. He decided to pick scenes from the novel using Pushkin’s verse, without creating a continuous drama. He composed what he called “lyrical scenes”.
The premiere took place in Moscow in 1879 and it was first premiered outside Russia in Prague nine years later. Gustav Mahler conducted the first performance in Hamburg 1892 with Tchaikovsky in the audience.
Act 1 & 2
Aria - Kogda bi zhizn domashnim krugom (Onegin)
Aria – Letter scene, Puskai pogibnu ya (Tatyana) - Part 1
Aria – Letter scene, Puskai pogibnu ya (Tatyana) - Part 2
Aria - Kuda kuda vi udalilis (Lensky)
Aria – Lyubvi vsye vozrasti (Prince Gremin)
Aria – Vy mne pisali (Onegin)