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Eugene Onegin

Opera in three acts
by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Libretto by the composer
and K.S. Shilovsky

Based on the poem
by Alexander Pushkin

First performed
March 29, 1879
Moscow

Place: St. Petersburg, Russia
Time: Early nineteenth century

[Production shot from Eugene Onegin]

Act I

Scene 1
Madame Larina's garden

In the garden, Madame Larina and her devoted servant Filipievna are talking together while Larina's daughters Tatiana and Olga can be heard practicing a duet. Peasants come in from the fields bringing freshly cut hay and celebrating the completion of the harvest. The outgoing Olga is taking part in the celebrations while the pale and shy Tatiana remains wrapped up in her beloved novels. Lenski, Olga's suitor, and his worldly friend, Eugene Onegin, arrive. The four young people awkwardly mingle until Lenski and Olga pair off as do Tatiana and Onegin. Lenski pours out his love for Olga. While strolling through the garden, Onegin asks Tatiana if she is growing tired of her boring existence. Visibly upset, Tatiana has difficulty answering. As evening falls, the couples go in for dinner.

Scene 2
Tatiana's bedroom

Tatiana and her nurse, Filipievna, have been talking. Tatiana is unable to fall asleep and asks Filipievna to tell her a story. Filipievna tells Tatiana about her life, love, and marriage but notices that Tatiana's mind is wandering and asks if she is ill. Tatiana replies that she is secretly in love and asks to be left alone. When she is finally alone, Tatiana begins writing a letter to Onegin pouring out her feelings. She closes by pleading for his understanding and when the morning arrives, she gives the letter to Filipievna for delivery to Onegin.

Scene 3
A different part of the garden from Scene 1

A group of women has gathered in Madame Larina's garden singing about flirting with boys. Tatiana hurries in, followed by Onegin. Onegin tells Tatiana that love and marriage are not for him and, while he is flattered by her attentions, he loves her like a brother and no more. Tatiana is crushed and humiliated.

[Production shot from Eugene Onegin]

Act II

Scene 1
Madame Larina's house, months later

During a ball for Tatiana's birthday, Monsieur Triquet, the dancing master, sings a song in her honor. Onegin dances with Tatiana, which gives rise to some ill-natured gossip from the neighbors. Onegin, bored with the whole evening, chooses to flirt with Olga and arouse Lenski's jealousy. They quarrel and Lenski challenges Onegin to a duel with pistols.

Scene 2
On the banks of a stream near an old mill, the following morning

At dawn, Lenski and his second, Zaretsky, await Onegin. Lenski reflects on the folly of his life and imagines Olga visiting his grave. Onegin arrives with his second. They sing of regret for their earlier rashness but, in the end, pride prevails. Neither Lenski nor Onegin will make the first move towards reconciliation. The pistols are loaded and the opponents measured up. Lenski is killed at the first shot.

[Production shot from Eugene Onegin]

Act III

Scene 1
A hall of a palace in St. Petersburg, several years later

A magnificent ball is in progress. Onegin is there after spending several years in seclusion to atone for the death of his friend, Lenski. Prince Gremin, the host of the party, arrives with his beautiful wife. The Prince talks with his cousin, Onegin, who questions him as to the identity of his wife. Gremin tells Onegin of the love and beauty that Tatiana has brought into his life since they were married two years earlier. Gremin introduces Onegin to Tatiana. Tatiana excuses herself after a few words to Onegin, who is utterly captivated by her.

Scene 2
Tatiana's drawing room

Onegin has written an impassioned letter to Tatiana. She receives him in her drawing room in answer to his letter. Tatiana recalls their former meeting and shows some indignation at his return. Is his interest in her now due to her marriage to a rich, prominent, and noble husband? Perhaps he only seeks notoriety. She remembers the happiness that could have been theirs but is now out of reach. Onegin declares his love again and Tatiana prays for courage. She resists his temptation and bids him a swift good bye. A distraught Onegin is left behind.

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