Tchaikovsky – Eugene Onegin

Just like yesterday, I can tell about a first. This is not it. But Tchaikovsky wrote another opera that was the first I really listened to. Studied. Dissected. Sung loudly. Yes, it taught me how to sing in Russian. And it made me buy this record, though it was second choice.

Eugene Onegin is one of the composers better known operas. It is based on the poetic novel by Pushkin from 1832. It tells about Eugene Onegin (Yevenji), an arrogant young man who spurns the adoration of young Tatyana and lives to regret it. He dies in a duel with his best friend.

The first performance was in 1879, led by Napravnik and in the Maly Theatre (‘little’ theatre, as opposed to the Bolshoi ‘big’ theatre). It was a big success for Tchaikovsky. It always has been very popular in Russia, though less so in other parts of the world.

The language does not help its popularity. Though in my mind a beautiful language, it is not making it very accessible. You really need to take time for this one to get the beauty of it. But once you do, another world opens.

Listening to this kind of work taught me patience. The best things in music are sometimes the most difficult to reach.

The booklet with the libretto quotes Tchaikovsky’s benefactress:

Music is not an illusion, but revelation rather. Its triumphant power resides in the fact that it reveals to us beauties we find nowhere else, and that the apprehension of them is not transitory but a perpetual reconcilement to life.

Nadezhda von Meck

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