Eugen Onegin

Music Piotr I. Tschaikowski Text Piotr I. Tschaikowski & Konstantin Schilowski
→ Lyrische Szenen in drei Akten

15. October 2021
Friday
19.00 - 22.00
1 intermission
Werkeinführung 30 Minuten vor der Vorstellung im Gustav Mahler-Saal
18. October 2021
Monday
19.00 - 22.00
1 intermission
Werkeinführung 30 Minuten vor der Vorstellung im Gustav Mahler-Saal
21. October 2021
Thursday
19.00 - 22.00
1 intermission
Werkeinführung 30 Minuten vor der Vorstellung im Gustav Mahler-Saal
24. October 2021
Sunday
18.30 - 21.30
1 intermission
Werkeinführung 30 Minuten vor der Vorstellung im Gustav Mahler-Saal
26. October 2021
Tuesday
19.00 - 22.00
1 intermission
Werkeinführung 30 Minuten vor der Vorstellung im Gustav Mahler-Saal

Cast 15.10.2021

Musical Direction Tomáš Hanus
Inszenierung und Bühne Dmitri Tcherniakov
Costume Design Maria Danilova
Lighting Design Gleb Filshtinsky
Ko-Kostümbildnerin Elena Zaytseva

Details

In these »lyrical scenes in three acts«, premiered in 1879 by a student ensemble at Moscow's Maly (i.e. Small) Theatre, Tchaikovsky chose not to use the »grand styled« theatre that was largely mandatory for opera performances during this time period: »I do not need tsars, tsarinas, uprisings, battles, marches... I am looking for an intimate but powerful drama based on the conflicts that I myself have experienced or seen, those which touched me deeply.«

The composer found such insight in Alexander Pushkin's intimate drama and novel in verse, »Eugene Onegin« (1833), which has gone down in cultural history as the »Encyclopedia of Russian Life«. In it Pushkin masterfully describes the life of contemporary society of the time and all its diversity. With his eponymous hero, he created for the first time what would later be called a »superfluous man«, a recurring archetype of Russian literature.

The fame of this newer style conflicted with the opera’s initial reception – especially in Russia itself. Despite the immediate appreciation of its music, he was perceived as having corrupted a cultural monument of national literature. Amongst some of those who rejected the piece of work, were none other than Ivan Tolstoy, who sent a horrified letter during the year of its premiere (»Imagine: Pushkin's verses about the characters put in his mouth!«). Similar comments were made by Vladimir Nabokov, who tirelessly castigated Tchaikovsky's »slapdash opera« in commentaries published in 1964 on his translation of Pushkin's novel. The success of what likely continues to be one of the most famous Russian operas – apart from »Boris Godunov« was initially delayed by the backlash of critiques. In present times, we are able to give the play justice and see its aesthetic and dramaturgical autonomy, which is not exhausted by its certainly extraordinary musical beauty.

Tchaikovsky starts his adaption with the famous letter scene of Tatjana Lárina, a landowner's daughter who escapes from the confines of her circumstances into literary fantasy worlds. Her character identifies herself with the heroines of the epistolary novels, while simultaneously throwing all rules of the genre out the window by making the first move as a woman and declaring her love to a man. But Onegin, a confident dandy incapable of committing, who was brought from the capital city to the estate next door to the Lárins’ for matters of inheritance, coolly rejects her love: in reaction to her passionate self-revelation he gifts her a sermon. On Tatjana's name day, he vents his bad mood in reaction by provoking his only friend and confidant, the young poet Lenski, shooting him nolens volens in the ensuing duel. After these events, Onegin travels aimlessly throughout the world. Three years later he meets Tatjana again as an admired hostess of a Petersburg salon by the side of a highly decorated general. In witnessing this scene, Onegin realises that he has missed his opportunity of finding happiness in his life. As an ironic twist, it is now Onegin who feels the pain of rejection.

The epic model of this play led to special theatrical solutions that, at the time, had not yet been available or seen in traditional operas. This can already be witnessed in the composer’s choice of genre designation: Lyrical scenes in three acts. The loosely constructed narrative makes it barely possible to distinguish between the main characters and those who are secondary characters. Even if the musical parts are weighted differently, attention is drawn just as much to Tatjana's fun-loving sister Olga, her fiancé Lenski and her mother Lárina, with an ear also lent to the bitter life story of Tatjana's old nurse and even a minor figure like Saretzki, the second in the fatal duel, is precisely portrayed. One single appearance in the last act is ample enough to have Tatjana's husband Greminan give a lasting impression.
The director and set designer, Dmitri Tcherniakov has created a hermetic classicistic dining room, in which a timeless inside event takes place. Here, the central set element stands: a long dining room table. This prop is used as a place for shared festive enjoyment of life, making the inescapable alienation of the characters that much more tangible. In this play, the viewer experiences how two figures are thrown off course by their love afflictions: Tatjana, who was on the brink of being hospitalized and had already fallen silent before Onegin's rejection, and the poet Lenski, who is driven into a deadly duel with his once-admired friend by the loss of his childhood love Olga, who had turned away from him inwardly and was also caught up in the maelstrom of his attractive companion Onegin.
 

Scene 1
MADAME LARINA, her daughters TATIANA and OLGA,
the nurse FILIPPYEVNA, VLADIMIR LENSKY, EUGENE ONEGIN Neighbours, guests

The Larins’ home.
Lensky, a neighbor of the Larins and Olga’s bridegroom, unexpectedly brings his friend Onegin, recently arrived from the capital, to visit them.
The unknown guest causes a kerfuffle in the dailyroutine of the Larin household: No one hides their interest in him. Onegin doubts in the wisdom of his friend’s choice.
The meeting with Onegin has made a deep impression on Tatiana.


Scene 2
TATIANA, the nurse FILIPPYEVNA

Noticing Tatiana’s agitation, her nurse tries to distract her and calm her down. Left alone, Tatiana writes a letter to Onegin. She sees him as her chosen one. At dawn, Tatiana asks her nurse to deliver the letter to Onegin.

Scene 3
TATIANA, EUGENE ONEGIN

Day-time. Tatiana anxiously awaits an answer to her declaration of love. Onegin arrives. He is touched by Tatiana’s sincerity, but cannot reciprocate her feelings.

Scene 4
MADAME LARINA, TATIANA, OLGA, VLADIMIR LENSKY, EUGENE ONEGIN, FILIPPYEVNA, ZARETSKY
Neighbors, guests

Tatiana’s Name-day. Lensky has persuaded Onegin to pay another visit to the Larins. But he is irritated by everything. Deciding to punish Lensky for bringing him, he demonstratively flirts with Olga. Olga’s prompt response to Onegin’s advances, afflicts Lensky. He picks a quarrel with Onegin and challenges him to a duel.

Scene 5
VLADIMIR LENSKY, EUGENE ONEGIN, ZARETSKY, OLGA, MADAME LARINA, FILIPPYEVNA, GUILLOT
Neighbors, guests

Morning. Lensky awaits Onegin. He thinks with pain and anguish about his life. Onegin, who arrives late, is reluctant to take the conflict to its conclusion. Both men feel privately that they have acted rashly. But it is too late, there is no going back. A shot is fired, Lensky is fatally wounded.

Scene 6
EUGENE ONEGIN, TATIANA, PRINCE GREMIN
Guests

Several years later. After a long absence, Onegin has returned to life in the cap- ital and meets Tatiana. She is married and social life in the capital now revolves round her. Onegin is shocked at his refusal. The transformation in Tatiana and the fact she is now out of reach arouse mad passion in Onegin.

Scene 7
TATIANA, EUGENE ONEGIN

Onegin manages to obtain a meeting with Tatiana. His words ring with repentance and regret. Demanding that his passion be reciprocated, he extorts from Tatiana the admission that she still loves him. But her decision to stay with her husband is final. Onegin is distraught.