Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Grove Music Online. Grove is a registered trademark. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 28 May 2020

Yevgeny Onegin (‘Eugene Onegin’)locked

  • Richard Taruskin


(‘Eugene Onegin’)

Lyric scenes in three acts by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky to a libretto by the composer and Konstantin Stepanovich Shilovsky after Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin’s novel in verse (1833); Moscow, Malïy Theatre, 17 /29 March 1879 [students of the Moscow Conservatory]; professional première, Moscow, Bol’shoy Theatre, 11 /23 January 1881.

The idea of transposing the most beloved work of Russian fiction to the musical stage was not Tchaikovsky’s to begin with. It was proposed to him, during a social call on 25 May /6 June 1877, by the contralto Yelizaveta Lavrovskaya (1845–1919), and, according to an oft-cited letter to his brother Modest, at first it struck the composer as ‘wild’. The drawbacks were obvious: Pushkin’s novel was loved for the telling, not the tale. The plot as such was slender and banal: a dreamy country girl falls in love with a young fop from the big city; she impulsively pours out her feelings to him in a letter; she is rebuffed and humiliated; five years later the two encounter one another again and fop is smitten; by now country girl has become a society matron who will not abandon her husband for her old love. There is also a subplot involving fop’s friend, a provincial poetaster, and country girl’s vacuous sister, over whom the two young men duel needlessly and the friend is meaninglessly slain. The book was loved for its divine details: the verbal dazzle, the wry social commentary, the perfectly exact descriptions, the endlessly subtle and nuanced characterizations, the ironized interrelationship of literary and social conventions – all that comes under the heading of narrative quality....

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Please subscribe to access the full content.