Eugene Onegin

October 11, 2013


On the Larin estate, Madam Larina reflects upon the days before she married, when she was courted by her husband but loved another.  She is now a widow with two daughters: Tatyana and Olga. While Tatyana spends her time reading novels, with whose heroines she closely identifies, Olga is being courted by their neighbour, the poet Lensky. He arrives, bringing with him a new visitor, Eugene Onegin, with whom Tatyana falls in love. In her bedroom, Tatyana asks her nurse Filipyevna to tell her of her first love and marriage. Tatyana stays up all night writing a passionate letter to Onegin and persuades Filipyevna to have her grandson deliver it in the morning. Tatyana waits for Onegin’s response in the garden. He admits that he was touched by her declaration but explains that he cannot accept it and can only offer her friendship. He advises her to control her emotions, lest another man take advantage of her innocence.


The local community has been invited to the Larin estate to celebrate Tatyana’s name day. Onegin has reluctantly agreed to accompany Lensky to what he mistakenly believes will be an intimate family celebration. Annoyed to find himself trapped at an enormous party and bored by the occasion, Onegin takes his revenge on Lensky by flirting and dancing with Olga. Lensky’s jealousy is aroused to such a height that he challenges Onegin to a duel. The party breaks up.

Before the duel, Lensky meditates upon his poetry, upon his love for Olga, and upon death. Lensky’s second finds Onegin’s late arrival and his choice of a second insulting. Although both Lensky and Onegin are full of remorse, neither stops the duel. Lensky is killed.


St Petersburg, several years later. Having travelled abroad since the duel, Onegin has returned to the capital. At a ball, Prince Gremin introduces his young wife. Onegin is astonished to recognize her as Tatyana and to realize that he is in love with her. Onegin sends a letter to Tatyana. He arrives at the Gremin palace and begs her to run away with him. Tatyana admits that she still loves him, but that she has made her decision and will not leave her husband. Onegin is left desperate.

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Recommended recordings:
Bychov/Hvorostovsky/Focile on DECCA (find it on Amazon or iTunes)
Rostropovich/Masurok/Vishnevskaya on Le Chant du Monde