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Opera “Eugene Onegin” Is an Unrivaled Piece of Art from 2 Russian Geniuses: Piotr Tchaikovsky and Alexander Pushkin

Postcard 1916 Yevgene Onegin and Tatyana Larina S. Ploshinsky

For more than a century the opera “Eugene Onegin” has attracted worldwide attention, finding new solutions and interpretation of its characters. It seems that everything has been already said about the work of two Russian geniuses – the poet and writer Alexander Pushkin, whose poem became the basis of the plot, and the composer Piotr Tchaikovsky – who created a completely new innovative piece for the art of opera. So much depth is inherent in both works that to this day people manage to discover something new. Birth of a masterpiece of Russian lyrical opera was made possible due to the fact that the composer was able to feel the intention of the poet, conveyed in the poem.

History of Creation of the First Lyric Opera Masterpiece

Initially, Tchaikovsky considered the namesake rhymed novel by the poet Pushkin a “holy book” and reported that he would never undertake to put it into music. But soon, this idea captivated him so much that he started writing an opera.

Before Piotr Tchaikovsky there have been other attempts to put the rhymed novel by Alexander Pushkin on the theater stage, but all those works were too pompous and too musically solemn. Tchaikovsky instead turned to the characters by developing their psychological aspects. The way of masters of French opera of the time, who often greatly simplified the story for the sake of the surface gloss was not interesting to Piotr Tchaikovsky. The composer tried to embody within the opera everything that he saw in the work by Pushkin: eventfulness, lyrics, and even philosophy.

While working on “Eugene Onegin”, the composer told his relatives that he was going to marry. His personal love story almost exactly copied the Pushkin’s story: he received a letter with the outpourings of love from an unknown young woman, and soon decided to marry. But the sudden marriage quickly ended with a parting of ways and he fled to Europe, where Tchaikovsky finished the musical score and completed the orchestration of the opera.

The premiere of the opera took place in 1879 at the Maly Theatre in Moscow, and it was performed by conservatory students. Tchaikovsky prepared opera particularly for a small stage, because the opera “Eugene Onegin” was more of an intimate work rather than intended for a wide audience. That production did not bring great success, but the significance of the event was appreciated. The viability test of this innovative work on a big stage was required.

After production of the opera at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, the reaction of critics was mixed, because a lot in it was not great and even routine. However, the opera “Eugene Onegin” was loved by the public from its first performance. With even greater success the opera was presented in St. Petersburg, winning more new fans.

During the life of the composer, the opera “Eugene Onegin” was staged in many theaters in Russia and abroad.

Fragment of the Opera “Eugene Onegin” / Anna Netrebko and Dmitri Hvorostovsky / Red Square

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pic – Postcard (1916) / Yevgene Onegin and Tatyana Larina / S. Ploshinsky

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