Eugene Onegin: The Tatyana Debacle
In honor of the great composer Tchaikovsky I am choosing to write this blog entry on one of my personal favorite operas (sung in the beautiful Russian Language) Eugene Onegin!
The opera opens on the Larin Country Estate and focuses on the two daughters of the house, Olga and Tatyana. Tatyana, the elder daughter, is engrossed with a romantic novel but when she speaks of it she is chided by her mother and sister who tell her that real life is nothing like the book. Soon after, Olga’s love sick fiancé Lensky (tenor), a young poet, and his friend Eugene Onegin (baritone), a world-weary St Petersburg ‘drawing-room automaton arrive and Lensky promptly begins to serenade his undying love for Olga… too bad the feelings do not seem to be completely mutual. Onegin, on the contrary, seemingly falls smitten with the introverted and dreamy Tatyana and thus the drama begins.
Later Tatyana is with her personal nurse when she professes that she has fallen irreversibly in love with the dashing Onegin. She has decided that she must marry him or she will simply die of longing. Despite the nurse’s warnings (because since when does a crazy teenager listen to the voice of reason) Tatyana chooses to write a long and thoroughly damning confession to Onegin and demands that the nurse take her letter to the church the following Sunday to give it to the object of her affection. Not surprisingly, Onegin receives the letter and rather gently rejects her claiming that he is unsuitable for marriage. Obviously Tatyana is embarrassed and unable to respond.
In the next act, a party is thrown for Tatyana’s name day and all the villagers are in attendance. Onegin and Lensky are also present although Onegin becomes increasingly irritated by the party goers who all seem to be trading rumors over his behavior towards Tatyana. In retribution to Lensky, who he quite unfairly blames for dragging him to this mockery, Onegin dances with Olga who flirtatiously obliges him. Lensky absolutely loses it and challenges Onegin to a duel. The long in short of it: Neither actually wants to go through with the match but since both men are too stubborn to back out Onegin ends up killing Lensky. He flees to escape the guilt.
A little while later Onegin finds himself at a nobleman’s house. At this point he his racked by remorse and ruined by his past. It therefore comes as quite a shock to him when the Prince walks in with his bride who happens to be none other than the ravishingly attractive Tatyana. In a desperate attempt to regain her affections, Onegin writes her a letter and eventually finds himself in a room with her alone. Tatyana suspects that he only loves her for her social status but Onegin vehemently claims that his love for her is sincere. In tears, Tatyana admits that she still has feelings for him but that he is too late. She is married and she will not be unfaithful to her husband. Talk about Karma!
The letter scene is one of the most famous moments of the opera. Below is a recording of Tatyana’s aria. Enjoy!