Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Eugene Onegin
Radio Broadcast of Saturday, January 18, 1 P.M.
Tatiana, her husband, Prince Gremin, and Onegin at the ball (Netrebko, Alexei Tanovitski as Gremin, Kwiecien)
© Beth Bergman 2014
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Music by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Libretto by the composer, with Konstantin Shilovsky,
after the novel in verse by Aleksandr Pushkin
Archive performance from October 5, 2013
THE CAST (in order of vocal appearance)
Tatiana soprano, ANNA NETREBKO
Olga mezzo, OKSANA VOLKOVA
Mme. Larina mezzo, ELENA ZAREMBA
Filippyevna mezzo, LARISSA DIADKOVA
Lenski tenor, PIOTR BECZALA
Eugene Onegin bar., MARIUSZ KWIECIEN
Captain bass-baritone, DAVID CRAWFORD
Triquet tenor, JOHN GRAHAM-HALL
Zaretski bass, RICHARD BERNSTEIN
Prince Gremin bass, ALEXEI TANOVITSKI
Conducted by VALERY GERGIEV
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
Production: Deborah Warner
Director: Fiona Shaw
Set designer: Tom Pye
Costume designer: Chloe Obolensky
Lighting designer: Jean Kalman
Video designers: Finn Ross,
Ian William Galloway
Choreographer: Kim Brandstrup
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Robert Morrison,
J. David Jackson, Joshua Greene,
Assistant stage directors: Anneleen Jacobs,
Yefim Maizel, Peter McClintock,
Production a gift of Ambassador
and Mrs. Nicholas F. Taubman
A coproduction of the Metropolitan Opera
and English National Opera
||(Russia, 19th century)
||Autumn, in the country
| Sc. 1
||Afternoon, on the Larin estate
| Sc. 2
| Sc. 3
||Some days later
| Sc. 1
||Madame Larina's house
| Sc. 2
| Sc. 1
| Sc. 2
||The palace of Prince and
Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
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This performance is also being broadcast on
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ACT I. Scene 1. The widowed Madame Larina and her servant Filippyevna listen as the Larin daughters, Olga and Tatiana, sing. 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 Lenski, arrives with his worldly friend Eugene Onegin. Lenski pours out his love for Olga. Onegin strolls with Tatiana and asks how she manages not to 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 Filippyevna 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 Filippyevna 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. He asks that she hear him out patiently. He admits that her 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.
Onegin and the dead Lenski (Kwiecien, Beczala)
© Johan Elbers 2014
ACT II. 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 Lenski for having dragged him there, Onegin dances with Olga, who is momentarily distracted by his charms. Monsieur Triquet, the elderly French tutor, serenades Tatiana with a song he has written in her honor. When the dancing resumes, Lenski jealously confronts Onegin. Madame Larina begs the men not to quarrel in her house, but Lenski cannot be placated, and Onegin accepts his challenge to a duel.
Scene 2. Lenski waits for Onegin at the appointed spot at dawn. Lenski reflects on the folly of his brief life and imagines Olga visiting his grave. Onegin finally arrives. He and Lenski 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 Lenski dead.
ACT III. 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, he learns that Tatiana is now Gremin's wife. The older man explains that he married Tatiana two years previously and describes Tatiana 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.
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, asking whether he desires 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.
Tatiana and her sister, Olga, at the Larin estate with Onegin and Lenski (Netrebko, Oksana Volkova as Olga, Kwiecien, Piotr Beczala as Lenski)
© Beth Bergman 2014
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–93) became in his lifetime and has remained Russia's most celebrated composer. In Eugene Onegin, the fourth of his nine operas to reach the stage between 1869 and 1892, he created an intimate work. The verse novel Eugene Onegin was written by Aleksander Sergeievich Pushkin (1799–1837). Onegin was the prototype of the "superfluous man," that seemingly cold man of the world detached from life's immediacy by self-imposed social and moral codes, developed later in the novels of Lermontov and Turgenev.
Eugene Onegin was more a personal than an artistic success at its premiere, a student performance at Moscow Conservatory on March 29, 1879. Two years later, the work had its professional entry at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.
America first heard the opera in a concert reading conducted by Walter Damrosch at Carnegie Hall on February 1, 1908, in English. The first Met Onegin (in Italian) did not appear until March 24, 1920, with Claudia Muzio, Giuseppe De Luca, Giovanni Martinelli and Adamo Didur, conducted by Artur Bodanzky. Eugene Onegin opened the Met's 1957–58 season in a new production by Peter Brook, sung in English, with Dimitri Mitropoulos pacing George London, Lucine Amara, Richard Tucker and Rosalind Elias. The house first used the Russian text during the 1977–78 revival, with Sherrill Milnes, Teresa Zylis-Gara, Isola Jones and Nicolai Gedda, conducted by James Levine. The current production, by Deborah Warner and directed by Fiona Shaw, was unveiled on September 23, 2013. The first-night cast was headed by Mariusz Kwiecien, Anna Netrebko, Piotr Beczala and Oksana Volkova and conducted by Valery Gergiev.
Anna Netrebko and Mariusz Kwiecien as Tatiana and
Onegin in Act III of Eugene Onegin at the Met
© Beatriz Schiller 2014
WHAT TO READ AND HEAR
David Brown's excellent four-volume study of the composer, issued in the 1980s and '90s (Norton), has been augmented by Brown's one-volume Tchaikovsky: The Man and his Music (Pegasus). Tchaikovsky: Letters to his Family, edited by Galina von Meck (Tchaikovsky's grandniece), offers the composer's own insights on Onegin (Cooper Square Press). There are many English-language editions of Pushkin's "novel in verse." Easily available are translations by James E. Falen (Oxford) and Charles Johnston (Penguin); less orthodox, but still fascinating, is Vladimir Nabokov's "literal" rendering (Princeton).
Dmitri Hvorostovsky delivers a suitably poetic anti-hero in Semyon Bychkov's 1992 recording, based on stage performances that same year at Paris's Théâtre du Châtelet (Philips); the baritone's impressive colleagues include Nuccia Focile, Neil Shicoff and Olga Borodina. Shicoff is also on the cast list for DG's lush reading, paced by James Levine, with Thomas Allen and Mirella Freni as Onegin and Tatiana. Naxos's CD transfer of the historic 1937 Bolshoi recording is superb; also valuable is the 1955 Bolshoi Onegin led by Boris Khaikin, with Galina Vishnevskaya its incomparable Tatiana. Anna Netrebko sings a knockout performance of Tatiana's letter scene on her Russian Album (2006), conducted by Valery Gergiev. Mariusz Kwiecien includes well-considered, stylish accounts both of Onegin's principal arias on his Slavic Heroes disc (2012).
On DVD, Mark Ermler conducts Bolshoi forces in a vintage-2000 recreation of the company's beloved 1944 production (TDK). Graham Vick's attractive Glyndebourne staging is led by Andrew Davis (Kultur). Valery Gergiev paces Renée Fleming and Hvorostovsky in a 2007 HD transmission of the Met's then-current staging by Robert Carsen (Decca).
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