Go inside this production of Eugene Onegin with engaging articles, notes from the director, a complete plot synopsis, artist bios, and more.
Throughout the history of opera, composers and librettists have been attracted to ill-starred romance. No one has presented it more powerfully and movingly than Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, whose Eugene Onegin has stood supreme as the most popular of all Russian operas for more than 125 years.
I feel particular affection and admiration for this piece, which has figured prominently in my operatic life for many years. No matter how frequently I experience it in opera houses or hear it in recorded performances, I never tire of its breathtakingly beautiful score, in which every episode contributes to the opera’s overwhelming cumulative impact.
In the deeply touching figure of Tatiana, Eugene Onegin boasts one of the most appealing of all operatic heroines. Her celebrated Act One tour de force, the “Letter Scene,” demands absolutely everything of an artist as both singer and actress. There is also musical and dramatic glory to be found in the ultra-sophisticated hero (or rather, “anti-hero”) Onegin, the ardent poet Lensky, and the noble Prince Gremin.
Eugene Onegin is returning to the Civic Opera House in one of the finest productions this work has received in decades. The director, Robert Carsen, and his design team have responded to the autumnal lyricism of Tchaikovsky with exquisite simplicity and sensitivity. The production, having been presented initially at the Metropolitan Opera, subsequently earned huge public and critical acclaim when first remounted at Lyric during the 2007-08 season.
I’m thrilled that we’re able to produce Eugene Onegin with such a dazzling cast, full of international stars who are as renowned for their musicality and dramatic prowess as they are for their outstanding voices. One of our two Onegins in 2007- 08 was the matchlessly dashing Mariusz Kwiecień (most recently our electrifying Don Giovanni two seasons ago). With Onegin he reprises a role that has become closely identified with him worldwide. Like him, Ana María Martínez is a great Lyric favorite, and Tatiana will certainly be one of the most significant role debuts of her career. Ana María is precisely the artist to convey not only the emotions of the impulsive teenager in the early scenes, but also the maturity and emotional depth of the married woman in the last act.
The rest of this cast is similarly stellar. After an absence of several seasons, I’m delighted that Charles Castronovo is returning to Lyric as Lensky, and that Dmitry Belosselskiy is following up on his success as Zaccaria in last season’s Nabucco with his return as Prince Gremin. A company needs no fewer than three superb mezzo-sopranos for this opera and we have them in the fast-rising Alisa Kolosova (Olga, Lyric debut) and two other favorite Lyric artists, Katharine Goeldner (Mme. Larina) and Jill Grove (Filipyevna).
Any memorable Eugene Onegin requires a conductor able to communicate the vigor and impetuosity of youth, who must also possess an acute feeling for Tchaikovsky’s profound expressiveness. We have that conductor in Aléjo Perez, the dynamic Argentinian who will be a great discovery for Chicago. In his still-young career he has already deeply impressed audiences at the Salzburg Festival, the Opéra National de Paris, La Monnaie in Brussels, and many other prestigious venues internationally.
The freshness, immediacy, and inspiration of Tchaikovsky’s melodies, the sumptuousness of his orchestra, and the immense appeal of the opera’s characters, will all combine to make Eugene Onegin an unforgettably exciting climax for Lyric’s 2016-17 season
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Scene 1. The widowed Madame Larina and her servant Filipyevna listen as the Larin daughters, Olga and Tatiana, sing. The peasants come from the fields celebrating the completion of the harvest with songs and dances. Olga teases Tatiana for avoiding the festivities; pensive Tatiana prefers her romance novels. When the peasants leave, Olga’s suitor, the poet Vladimir Lensky, arrives with his worldly friend Eugene Onegin. Lensky pours out his love for Olga. Onegin strolls with Tatiana and asks how she doesn’t get bored with country life. Unnerved by the handsome stranger, Tatiana answers with difficulty. The two couples go inside for dinner as night falls.
Scene 2. In her bedroom, Tatiana persuades the reluctant Filipyevna to tell her of her first love and marriage. Tatiana admits she is in love and asks to be left alone. She sits up the entire night writing a passionate letter to Onegin. When day breaks, she gives the letter to Filipyevna for her grandson to deliver. Scene 3. A group of women sing as they work in the Larins’ garden. They leave, and Tatiana appears, nervous, followed by Onegin, who asks that she hear him out patiently. He admits that the letter was touching, but adds that he would quickly grow bored with marriage and can only offer her friendship. He coldly advises more emotional control in the future, lest another man take advantage of her innocence.
Scene 1. Some months later, a party is underway in the Larins’ house for Tatiana’s name day. Young couples dance while older guests comment and gossip. Onegin dances with Tatiana but he is bored by these country people and their provincial ways. Annoyed with Lensky for having dragged him there, Onegin dances with Olga, who is momentarily distracted by the charming man. Monsieur Triquet, the elderly French tutor, serenades Tatiana with a song he has written in her honor. When the dancing resumes, Lensky jealously confronts Onegin. Madame Larina begs the men not to quarrel in her house, but Lensky cannot be placated and Onegin accepts his challenge to a duel.
Scene 2. Lensky waits for Onegin at the appointed spot at dawn. Lensky reflects on the folly of his brief life and imagines Olga visiting his grave. Onegin finally arrives. He and Lensky admit to themselves that the duel is pointless and they would prefer to laugh together than to fight, but honor must be satisfied. The duel is marked off and Onegin shoots Lensky dead.
Scene 1. Several years later, a magnificent ball is being given in the Gremin Palace in St. Petersburg. Onegin appears, reflecting bitterly on the fact that he has traveled the world seeking excitement and some meaning in life, and all his efforts have led him to yet another dull social event. Suddenly, he recognizes Tatiana across the ballroom. She is no longer a naïve country girl but is sumptuously gowned and bearing herself with great dignity. Questioning his cousin, Prince Gremin, Onegin learns that Tatiana is now Gremin’s wife. The older man explains that he married Tatiana two years previously and describes her as his life’s salvation. When Gremin introduces Onegin, Tatiana maintains her composure but excuses herself after a few words of polite conversation. Onegin is surprised to realize he himself is in love with Tatiana.
Scene 2. Tatiana is distressed the next day after she receives an impassioned letter from Onegin. He rushes in and falls at her feet, but she maintains her control. Does he desire her only for her wealth and position? She recalls the days when they might have been happy, but that time has passed. Onegin repeats his love for her. Faltering for a moment, she admits that she still loves him, but she will not allow him to ruin her. She leaves him regretting his bitter destiny.
Reprinted by permission of the Metropolitan Opera