Madame Larina. Her daughters: Tatiana, Olga. Nurse. Vladimir Lensky. Eugene Onegin. Neighbors, guests.
The Larins’ home.
Lensky, a neighbor of the Larins and Olga’s bridegroom, unexpectedly brings his friend Onegin, recently arrived from the capital, to visit them. The unknown guest causes a kerfuffle in the daily routine of the Larin household: no one hides their interest in him. Onegin doubts in the wisdom of his friend’s choice. The meeting with Onegin has made a deep impression on Tatiana.
Noticing Tatiana’s agitation, her nurse tries to distract her and calm her down. Left alone, Tatiana writes a letter to Onegin. She sees him as her chosen one. At dawn, Tatiana asks her nurse to deliver the letter to Onegin.
Tatiana. Eugene Onegin.
Tatiana anxiously awaits an answer to her declaration of love. Onegin arrives. He is touched by Tatiana’s sincerity, but cannot reciprocate her feelings.
Madame Larina. Tatiana. Olga. Vladimir Lensky. Eugene Onegin. Nurse. Zaretsky. Neighbors, guests.
Lensky has persuaded Onegin to pay another visit to the Larins. But he is irritated by everything. Deciding to punish Lensky for bringing him, he demonstratively flirts with Olga. Olga’s prompt response to Onegin’s advances, afflicts Lensky. He picks a quarrel with Onegin and challenges him to a duel.
Vladimir Lensky. Eugene Onegin. Zaretsky. Guillot.
Lensky awaits Onegin. He thinks with pain and anguish about his life. Onegin, who arrives late, is reluctant to take the conflict to its conclusion. Both men feel privately that they have acted rashly. But it is too late, there is no going back. A shot is fired, Lensky is fatally wounded.
Eugene Onegin. Tatiana. Prince Gremin. Guests.
Several years later.
After a long absence, Onegin has returned to life in the capital and meets Tatiana. She is married and social life in the capital now revolves round her. The transformation in Tatiana and the fact she is now out of reach arouse mad passion in Onegin.
Tatiana. Eugene Onegin.
Onegin manages to obtain a meeting with Tatiana. His words ring with repentance and regret. Demanding that his passion be reciprocated, he extorts from Tatiana the admission that she still loves him.But her decision to stay with her husband is final. Onegin is distraught.
Time: The 1820s
Place: St Petersburg and surrounding countryside
Scene 1: The garden of the Larin country estate
Madame Larina and the nurse Filippyevna are sitting outside in the garden. They can hear Madame Larina's two daughters, Tatyana and her younger sister Olga, singing a love song. Madame Larina begins to reminisce about her own courtship and marriage. A group of peasants enter, and celebrate the harvest with songs and dances. Tatyana and Olga watch. Tatyana has been reading a romantic novel and is absorbed by the story; her carefree sister, on the other hand, wants to join in the celebrations. Madame Larina tells Tatyana that real life is very different from her novels. Filippyevna announces that visitors have arrived: Olga's fiancé Lensky, a young poet, and his friend Eugene Onegin, visiting the area from St Petersburg. The pair are shown in and Lensky introduces Onegin to the Larin family. Onegin is initially surprised that Lensky has chosen the extrovert Olga rather than her more subtle elder sister as his fiancée. Tatyana for her part is immediately and strongly attracted to Onegin. Lensky expresses his delight at seeing Olga and she responds flirtatiously. Onegin tells Tatyana of his boredom in the country and describes the death of his uncle and his subsequent inheritance of a nearby estate. Filippyevna recognizes that Onegin has had a profound effect on Tatyana.
Scene 2: Tatyana's room
Tatyana is dressed for bed. Restless and unable to sleep, she asks her nurse Filippyevna to tell her about her youth and early marriage. Tatyana confesses that she is in love. Left alone, Tatyana pours out her feelings in a letter to Onegin. She tells him that she loves him and believes that she will never feel this way about anyone else, and begs him to understand and help her. She finishes writing the letter at dawn. A shepherd's pipe is heard in the distance. Filippyevna enters the room to wake Tatyana. Tatyana persuades her to send her grandson to deliver the letter to Onegin.
Scene 3: Another part of the estate
Servant girls pick fruit and sing as they work. Tatyana waits anxiously for Onegin's arrival. Onegin enters to see Tatyana and give her his answer to her letter. He explains, not unkindly, that he is not a man who loves easily and is unsuited to marriage. He is unworthy of her love and can only offer her brotherly affection. He warns Tatyana to be less emotionally open in future. The voices of the servant girls singing are heard again. Tatyana is crushed and unable to reply.
Scene 1: The ballroom of the Larin house
A ball is being given in honour of Tatyana, whose name day it is. Onegin is dancing with her. He grows irritated with a group of neighbours who gossip about him and Tatyana, and with Lensky for persuading him to come to the ball. He decides to avenge himself by dancing and flirting with Olga. Lensky is astounded and becomes extremely jealous. He confronts Olga but she cannot see that she has done anything wrong and tells Lensky not to be ridiculous. Onegin asks Olga to dance with him again and she agrees, as "punishment" for Lensky's jealousy. The elderly French tutor Monsieur Triquet sings some couplets in honour of Tatyana, after which the quarrel between Lensky and Onegin becomes more intense. Lensky renounces his friendship with Onegin in front of all the guests, and challenges Onegin to a duel, which the latter is forced, with many misgivings, to accept. Tatyana collapses and the ball ends in confusion.
Scene 2: On the banks of a wooded stream, early morning
Lensky is waiting for Onegin with his second Zaretsky. Lensky reflects on his life, his fear of death and his love for Olga. Onegin arrives with his manservant Guillot. Both Lensky and Onegin are reluctant to go ahead with the duel, reflecting on the senselessness of their sudden enmity. But it is too late; neither man has the courage to stop the duel. Zaretsky gives them the signal and Onegin shoots Lensky dead.
Scene 1: The house of a rich nobleman in St Petersburg
Years have passed, during which Onegin has travelled extensively around Europe. Standing alone at a ball, he reflects on the emptiness of his life and his remorse over the death of Lensky. Prince Gremin enters with Tatyana, his wife, now a grand, aristocratic beauty. She is greeted by many of the guests with great deference. Onegin is taken aback when he sees Tatyana, and deeply impressed by her beauty and noble bearing. Tatyana, in turn, is overwhelmed with emotion when she recognizes him. Gremin tells Onegin about his great happiness and love for Tatyana, and re-introduces Onegin to his wife. Onegin, suddenly injected with new life, realizes that he is in love with Tatyana. He determines to write to her and arrange a meeting.
Scene 2: A room in Prince Gremin's house
Tatyana has received Onegin's letter, which has stirred up the passion she felt for him as a young girl and disturbed her. Onegin enters. Tatyana recalls her earlier feelings and asks why Onegin is pursuing her now. Is it because of her social position? Onegin denies any cynical motivation: his passion is real and overwhelming. Tatyana, moved to tears, reflects how near they once were to happiness but nevertheless asks him to leave. He asks her to have pity. Tatyana admits she still loves Onegin, but asserts that their union can never be realized, as she is now married, and determined to remain faithful to her husband. Onegin implores her to relent, but she bids him farewell forever, leaving him alone and in despair.
Eugene Onegin is an opera ("lyrical scenes") in 3 acts (7 scenes), by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto was written by Konstantin Shilovsky and the composer and his brother Modest, and is based on the novel in verse by Alexander Pushkin.
Eugene Onegin is a well-known example of lyric opera; the libretto very closely follows Pushkin's original, retaining much of his poetry, to which Tchaikovsky adds music of a dramatic nature. The story concerns a selfish hero who lives to regret his blasé rejection of a young woman's love and his careless incitement of a fatal duel with his best friend.
The opera was first performed in Moscow in 1879. There are several recordings of it, and it is regularly performed. The work's title refers to the protagonist.