Petr Iljič Čajkovskij
Staged in the Russian original with Czech, English and German subtitles.
Eugene Onegin, a young dandy from St. Petersburg, bored by the social life in that city, flees to the countryside where he meets the young, naïve Tatyana. He coldly rejects Tatyana´s love, but several years later he comes to understand what a mistake he has made, and that it can no longer be corrected. The verse novel by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, published in 1823-1831, became very popular in Russian society. It is no wonder that Tchaikovsky reached for it when he was searching for a theme for his fourth opera, or that he and the librettist Shilovsky kept an extensive part of Pushkin´s original text for the libretto. The composer subtitled the work a lyrical scene in three acts and, truly, Eugene Onegin is a remarkable combination of very intimate, chamber-style scenes with a theme that is most untypical and simple for a 19th century opera, a fact which lies in contrast with its romantic orchestration and choral scenes. It must be said that Tchaikovsky´s music strengthened the trueness and depth of Pushkin´s story, and particularly the moments when the main characters confess their love – whether it be Tatyana’s famous letter scene, Lensky´s farewell to life or Prince Gremin´s aria – rightfully rank amongst the most famous scenes in the opera repertoire. After a very successful production of The Queen of Spades, Eugene Onegin sees the return of director Martin Glaser to the works of P. I. Tchaikovsky, one of the greatest personalities of Russian romanticism.
What would life be without romantic illusions but is it possible to only live in them? And what to do when illusions turn into nothing than a store of empty memories…
Summer is slowly coming to an end. In the garden, Larina, the lady of the manor, and Filippyevna, a nanny, are making jams. The songs of Larina’s daughters Tatyana and Olga bring back memories of their youth and its romantic foolishness, which has been replaced by habits and routines. A song of approaching villagers bringing this year’s harvest to the house sounds in the distance. The early evening idyll is interrupted by the arrival of poet Lensky who is in love with Olga. Lensky brings his friend Onegin who has recently moved to the neighbourhood. Tatyana, filled with illusions of romantic love, fall head over heels in love with handsome Onegin, so different from the man around her, although they have only exchanged a few polite words. In the evening, Tatyana confides in the nanny that she is in love and spends the whole night writing her love confession to Onegin. In the morning, she begs Filippyevna to have the letter delivered to Onegin. After he reads the letter, he goes to see Tatyana. His cold confession that he would never love her humiliates her deeply.
There is Tatyana’s name day celebration at the Larins’. Lensky and negin are among the guests. When dancing with Tatyana, Onegin overhears guests gossiping about him. He decides to revenge himself on Lensky who brought him to the ball, and starts courting his Olga. He dances with her, one dance after another. The careless girl doesn’t see anything wrong with it but Lensky, being jealous, starts a row and to general dismay, challenges Onegin to a duel. Early morning, Lensky and Zaretsky, his second, are waiting for Onegin. His thoughts are with Olga and the happy youth he spent in her company. Onegin appears and although both friends hesitate briefly, they grasp the handguns. Lensky is shot dead.
After several years abroad, Onegin returns to St. Petersburg. He comes to a ball straight from the ship. Astonished, he recognizes the charming young lady admired by all is Tatyana, only to find out she is married to Prince Gremin. He tells Onegin emotionally about his happiness and love for Tatyana. Onegin realizes what he lost when he rejected her years ago. Just like Tatyana back then, Onegin sends a letter with an ardent love confession. When they meet, Tatyana rejects him. Not even his passionate pleas win her over, her fate is decided and she will remain faithful to her husband. At the end, she admits she still loves Onegin. But the happiness that was once so close is out of reach now and Tatyana leaves.