Eugene Onegin, the opening opera in the 2013-14 Live in HD series at movie theaters, is Peter Tchaikovsky’s (1840-1893) musical dramatization of a novel in verse by beloved Russian poet Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837).
The plot is a simple one–really. Lensky comes to see Olga, his love. His friend Eugene Onegin comes with him and meets the lovely Tatyana. A dreamer and reader of romance novels, she falls immediately for Onegin and composes a letter to him that night. When he receives the letter, he responds in the negative. Although she has all the qualities he admires in a woman, he would get bored with her easily, as he does with all women, and with everything.
Onegin is so bored with life that when he attends a ball a few months later, he amuses himself by flirting with Olga, now engaged to marry Lensky. Lensky gets angry and challenges Onegin to a duel the next morning. Before that duel, both men regret what they have decided to do; both say they would rather be laughing together than fighting. Nevertheless, both of them are too proud to call off the duel. Onegin kills his friend Lensky.
Change of Heart
Years later in St. Petersburg, Onegin runs into Tatyana, who is now sophisticated, beautiful, and married to his cousin Gremin. When Onegin can’t have Tatyana, he wants her. But she, regretfully yet honorably, rejects him. She does not feel the passion for her husband that she felt for Onegin, but she will remain faithful to him.
She turns the tables, using some of the same phrases Onegin used when he rejected her: “Let me speak frankly. . . .” The story ends with Tatyana leaving the room, with a dejected Onegin in it.
Just So You Don’t Have to Be Confused
This is a simple outline of the plot of Pushkin’s novel Eugene Onegin and the Tchaikovsky opera based on it. It’s designed to give the basic story to those who go to see the opera at their local movie theater on Saturday, October 5. No need to be confused and clueless and, like Onegin, bored from the outset.
I just saw this opera two days ago. I was glad that I had read up on the story in advance; it always helps me to do so. But as I said, it’s a simple story–an old story, really: unrequited love, rejection, jealousy, revenge. All of these themes are still popular today, still seen in popular movies and on TV series like Mistresses (one of my favorites). Of course we don’t have duels today, but we do have people dying for love. I’m saying this story is relatable. And the characters are great–especially the noble Tatyana, played gorgeously by Anna Netrebko.
Eugene Onegin will be the first presentation of the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD 2013-14, starring Anna Netrebko and Mariusz Kwiecien.