Metropolitan Opera Live in HD Broadcast: Eugene Onegin 

Transmission of Saturday, October 5, 2013, 12:55 P.M.

Broadcast Onegine hdl 1013
A scene from Deborah Warner's production of Eugene Onegin
© Neil Libbert 2013
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Eugene Onegin

Music by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Libretto by the composer, with Konstantin Shilovsky, after the novel in verse by Aleksandr Pushkin
THE CAST     in order of vocal appearance)
Tatiana     soprano, ANNA NETREBKO
Olga     mezzo, OKSANA VOLKOVA
Mme. Larina     mezzo, ELENA ZAREMBA
Filippyevna     mezzo, LARISSA DIADKOVA
Offstage Voice     tenor, DAVID LOWE
Lenski     tenor, PIOTR BECZALA
Eugene Onegin     bar., MARIUSZ KWIECIEN
Captain     bass-baritone, DAVID CRAWFORD
Triquet     tenor, JOHN GRAHAM-HALL
Zaretski     bass-baritone, RICHARD BERNSTEIN
Prince Gremin     bass, ALEXEI TANOVITSKI


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,
     Irina Soboleva
Assistant stage directors: Anneleen Jacobs,
     Yefim Maizel, Peter McClintock,
     Paula Williams

Production a gift of Ambassador
and Mrs. Nicholas F. Taubman

A coproduction of the Metropolitan Opera
     and English National Opera

Directed for Live Cinema by Gary Halvorson
HD host: Sondra Radvanovsky

Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin had its world premiere at the Maly Theatre, Moscow, in 1879. The opera has a long history at the Metropolitan Opera. Eugene Onegin had its U.S. stage premiere, sung in Italian, at the Met in 1920, with Artur Bodanzky conducting. When the Met offered a new Onegin, directed by Peter Brook, in 1957, the opera was sung in English. The company did not present Onegin in Russian until 1977. The Met's current Eugene Onegin production, by Deborah Warner, had its New York premiere under Fiona Shaw's direction, on opening night of the 2013–14 season, conducted by Valery Gergiev, with Anna Netrebko and Mariusz Kwiecien as Tatiana and Onegin. 


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 ("Ya lyublyu vas"). Onegin strolls with Tatiana and asks how she doesn't 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 ("Pooskai pogibnoo ya"). 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 the 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.

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 the charming man. Monsieur Triquet, the elderly French tutor, serenades Tatiana with a song he has written in her honor ("A cette fête conviée"). 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 ("Kuda, kuda"). 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. Does he desire 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.


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 Alexander 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, 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. The house first used the Russian text during the 1977-78 revival, with Sherrill Milnes, Teresa Zylis-Gara and Nicolai Gedda, conducted by James Levine. The current production, by Deborah Warner and directed by Fiona Shaw, was unveiled on September 23, 2013.


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). Georg Solti and the principals of his Decca recording provide the soundtrack (but not the on-screen acting) for Peter Weigl's film (Decca). spacer

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