Eugene Onegin

Lyric Scenes in three acts by P. J. TSCHAIKOWSKY.

Text after Puschkin's poem of the same name.

Tschaikowsky's opera, long known and so intensely popular throughout

Russia, that many of its melodies have become household-properties, has

taken a long time to penetrate into other countries. But wherever it

has been represented, its success was great and its impression upon the

lic deep and lasting.

At the Dresden Opera House it was first given October 20th, 1908,

though the composer wrote it fully 29 years ago. It was the most

brilliant success of the season.

Tschaikowsky is the classic amongst the Russian composers; his concert

music is well known and greatly esteemed in Germany.

Of the eleven operas, which he wrote, Eugene Onegin is the best.

The libretto lacks dramatic force, although it is taken from Puschkin's

masterpiece, a poem, which in Russia is equalled to Goethe's Faust, but

the music is strikingly original and full of exquisite music and

harmony. The hearer's attention may be drawn especially to the fine

duet between Olga and Tatiana, and to the latter's love letter, a

supreme hymn of love in the first act.

In the second act there are some charming dances, a quaint

old-fashioned waltz, an original Mazurka and in the third act a

brilliant polonaise and a delightful waltz, interwoven with the

passionate love duet between Onegin and Tatiana.

The text is adapted for the stage by Tschaikowsky's brother Modeste.

The scene is laid in Russia. The first and second acts take place in

the country-house of Madame Larina, the third act in the house of

Prince Gremin at St. Petersburg.

In the first scene Madame Larina is sitting in the garden with the

nurse Philipyewna, talking of old times and listening to the pretty

songs of her two daughters. Olga, a light-hearted merry girl, is

engaged to Lenski, a somewhat jealous youth. Tatiana, the younger

sister, is thoughtful and sensitive and possesses all the

sentimentality of sweet eighteen.

While they are talking the peasants of the village enter, bringing

presents of fruit and corn to their landlady. After having performed

their pretty dances, they are treated to wine and food by the nurse.--

When they have left Lenski, Olga's betrothed is announced. He

introduces his friend Eugene Onegin to the family, and Tatiana promptly

falls in love with the interesting stranger, who seems also attracted

by the charming girl. Lenski has only eyes for his bride Olga, who

soon grows somewhat tired of her passionate and exacting lover.--

In the evening, when Tatiana has retired to her bedroom, she writes a

long letter to Onegin, telling him, that she has seen his face in her

dreams, and believes him to be her good genius and her guardian

angel. She declares in the most touching terms, that she loves him,

but being ashamed of herself and hardly knowing, what she is doing in

her newly awakened love-fever, she writes again and again, destroying

each letter. Towards morning she begins to write once more and at last

seals the letter just when her nurse enters to waken her. To this

faithful servant she entrusts the precious document, imploring her to

deliver it to Onegin.

In the third scene Tatiana is waiting for him. He cruelly undeceives

her about his own feelings, telling her, that although touched by her

confidence he cannot return her affection. He warns her to restrain

her feelings in future, leaving her in an agony of shame.

The second act opens with a dance given in honour of Tatiana's

birthday. Onegin feels bored and out of sheer ennui he begins to flirt

with Olga. The thoughtless girl willingly yields to the young man's

attentions and promises to dance the cotillion with him, in order to

punish her lover for his jealousy.--This tactless behaviour enrages

Lenski to such a degree, that he challenges Onegin to a duel. The

whole assembly is terrified, Tatiana is most indignant and mortified,

while Olga vainly tries to pacify her lover. Onegin recognizes at

last, that he has gone too far, having not only given pain to a sweet

and innocent maiden, but having also deeply wounded his dearest friend.

In vain he tries to remonstrate with Lenski. The duel is arranged, and

Lenski, feeling that he may not see the following morning, takes

a last farewell of his weeping bride.

In the next scene Lenski, finding himself the first on the spot and

being left discreetly alone by his second, takes a touching farewell

from life, after which Onegin comes up and the duel follows. Lenski is

shot and Onegin leaves the place, horror-struck at his own deed.

The third act takes place some years later at a ball in St. Petersburg,

in the house of Prince Gremin. Here we find Onegin, who is a friend

and relative of the Prince. After long and aimless wanderings about

the world he has come back to Russia utterly weary of life. The memory

of his friend Lenski, whose premature death he caused, haunts him. In

this melancholy state of mind he sees Tatiana again. The Prince enters

the ballroom, leading a lady, whom Onegin recognizes as Tatiana. Then

the Prince introduces her as his wife. She has grown far lovelier,

then when he saw her last on the eve of Lenski's death. Onegin's

passionate heart suddenly awakes to life again.--Tatiana bows coldly,

concealing her emotion. Onegin explains to the Prince, that he has

just returned from his travels.--He tries to talk with Tatiana; she

however turns to her husband, pleading fatigue, and leaves the

ball-room with him.

Onegin, torn by jealousy and love, decides, to recover her affection at

any cost.

In the final scene he implores Tatiana, to be his own. The young wife

resists, reminding him of the past, when he spurned the simple

country maiden's blind love. At last she grows weak and confesses,

that her love for him is not dead. His wooing growing more passionate,

Tatiana declares, that she means to remain true to her husband, and

refuses to elope with him, but feeling that she cannot resist him much

longer, she flees, while Onegin rushes away, cursing himself and his

whole life.