With EUGENE ONEGIN, Tchaikovsky attempted the overthrow of just about every convention of 19th-century Russian opera. In fact, he was careful NOT to call his work an opera, but rather “seven lyrical scenes.” It begins with a simple orchestral introduction, rather than a grand overture with a slam-bang ending. The story focuses on the relationships between a quartet of young lovers, very much like La Bohème. The prevailing mood throughout blends drama with an intimate and conversational tone.
When Tchaikovsky planned its premiere, he knew exactly what he wanted— a staging in a small theater, a flexible scenic design that would do away with conventional spectacle, a chorus that could act, and, above all, soloists who could truly inhabit the emotional world of youthful and impetuous lovers. In a surprise maneuver, he gave the rights for its premiere to the Moscow Conservatory, whose graduate students performed it in the city’s 950-seat Maly Theatre.
Today we still associate Tchaikovsky with the spectacular, the grandiose, and, sometimes, the bombastic. For our EUGENE ONEGIN, however, we will return to the finely honed dramatic sensibility of the opera’s premiere. Our cast will feature performers who can believably portray the youthful central quartet; our staging in the 850-seat Newmark Theatre will offer the kind of inspired simplicity and directness that Tchaikovsky sought and that you will find to be a revelation.