Eugene Onegin - Synopsis
Peter I. Tchaikovsky and Konstantin Shilovsky after Alexander Pushkin's verse novel
An evening in the country, (almost) like any other
Everyone is gathered together. The sisters Tatiana and Olga are singing a duet; their widowed mother, Larina, and Filipievna are listening to them. The girls‘ song awakens memories of their own youth. A neighbour starts singing a different song which they all know and join in. Larina finds this all a little bit too much melancholy for one evening and demands some cheerful music and the mood lightens.
Tatiana is dreaming and Olga rudely brings her back to reality. Larina and Filipievna are worried about Tatiana, who suddenly seems to them to be very pale. Tatiana sets everybody’s mind at rest; she has merely been very absorbed in a novel she is reading.
Larina sympathetically declares reading to be a fleeting phenomenon of youth.
An unexpected visits causes excitement. Vladimir Lenski, who has been engaged to Olga for a long time, drops by, bringing with him a friend – Eugene Onegin. This young man from the city is visiting his friend, and everyone is greatly impressed by him. Tatiana believes this to a meeting destined to happen and falls head over heels in love.
The older folk leave the young people to their own devices. Lenski is completely lost in his admiration of Olga and Onegin tries to get into conversation with Tatiana.
They are called in for a meal.
A sleepless night, confessions I
Tatiana is still awake. Filipievna also makes no move to retire and starts to chat about the past. Tatiana wants to hear a story about love. Filipievna’s stories are sad: she married a man chosen for her by her parents. Filipievna is worried about Tatiana, who seems ill and feverish. Tatiana admits that she is in love but does not talk about it and swears Filipievna to secrecy.
Filipievna finally goes to bed, leaving Tatiana dizzy with the violence of her emotions. She tries to put a name to them and formulates an incredible, and fateful, declaration of love.
Day breaks. Tatiana hands Filipievna a letter, which she is to take safely and discreetly to Onegin.
Late afternoon, destroyed hopes
Tatiana waits impatiently for Onegin’s reaction to her letter. He arrives in person and Tatiana is in a state of considerable emotion, feelings of both joy and shame. Onegin thanks her for her frank letter and calmly, collectedly and with great understanding explains to her that he cannot return her feelings. Love and marriage are not for him. Finally he advises her to keep her feelings under better control so that she will not be taken advantage of by the first man to come along. Tatiana is silently humiliated.
Evening, an unsuccessful ball
The house is full of guests for a ball in honour of Tatiana’s birthday. Onegin is also present, having been persuaded to come by Lenski. He congratulates Tatiana and dances with her, which gives rise to gossip. People still think they make an ideal couple. Onegin senses that they are the focus of attention and that people are talking about them and so he steals Olga from Lenski and dances with her. Tatiana feels out of place at her own ball; Lenski is jealous and showers reproaches on Olga.
One or two people perform, to the amusement of the guests, but fail to make either Tatiana or Lenski feel more cheerful.
Onegin approaches Lenski but is rebuffed. He wants to have a frank discussion with Lenski but the whole thing develops into a quarrel, while the guests listen. Lenski insults Onegin in front of them all, declares their friendship to be over and challenges him to a duel.
Before dawn, no dream or the lost opportunity
Lenski is waiting impatiently for Onegin to arrive to fight the duel. He takes farewell of life and all that he has loved.
A short while later the two friends are facing each other as rivals. Both are shocked by the distance that is now between them, but neither of them can manage a gesture of reconciliation which would end the duel.
The second, Saretzky, urges them to hurry. The rules are quickly explained.
Onegin takes aim and fires, fatally wounding his friend.
An evening years later, the reunion
Memories of Lenski haunt Onegin; he is tortured by feelings of guilt. Frustrated with his life, he returns from years of aimless travel abroad.
He meets Tatiana again unexpectedly, in the capital. She is now married to Gremin, a respected member of society.
Gremin tells Onegin how happy his marriage is and raves about his charming wife. He introduces them to each other and they admit that they have met before – in a different time.
Onegin feels drawn to Tatiana. He wants to begin a new life with this woman.
A short while later, confessions II
Tatiana is waiting for Onegin, who has asked her to meet him for a private chat. Her passion for him has not diminished with the years, but she doubts the sincerity of his feelings. Onegin is full of remorse, begs her forgiveness, throws himself at her feet. Tatiana confesses her love for him a second time. He urges her to leave her husband, but Tatiana tears herself away from him and flees to the safety of her life with Gremin.
Onegin is left alone.
© Bavarian State Opera