Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin at the Royal Opera House
The last time I was at the Royal Opera House was a couple of months
ago to see three ballets, Viscera, Infra and Fool's Paradise. Though
contemporary, I enjoyed them very much but prior to that as the winter
was setting and with no outdoor events, some of my friends literally
dragged me to see an opera called Eugene Onegin of which I was familiar
with the music but not the opera. The only redeeming factor for me to
tag along was Tchaikovsky who had done the score.
The world-renowned singer Ekaterina
Scarcbachenko as the innocent Tatiana in Eugene Onegin is
the famous Letter Scene from the opera by Tchaikovsky at the
Royal Opera House.
But, recalling the opera, it was a fine experience where I had a
change of heart and later, softened up. The story was touching; very
emotional and I could have related my own life under different
circumstances. It is in instances like these that people realise how
close or face to face they are with their own experiences in life that
are projected before their own eyes.
Music can have a very powerful effect on human beings no matter who
they are; from intellectuals, writers, artistes or the boy next door;
they all will be impacted with intensity, which in fact, is a good tonic
to the system. Perhaps, Eugene Onegin evolves around these aspersions,
of human bondage; that of Tchaikovsky, you and me; retold mainly on
Russian operatic heritage
They stand supreme in classical repertoire whether music, opera or
ballet and lead the world stage to open her wondrous heritage safely
guarded down the centuries. No contemporary or modern influence can
bring it under their influence which is why it is flourishing. The
Bolshoi Opera represents the quintessence of Russian operatic heritage.
Their own Tchaikovsky's supreme masterpiece Eugene Onegin was first
debuted at the Bolshoi theatre in 1879 and now for the first time at the
Royal Opera House.
The Bolshoi brings its powerful production directed by the award
winning Mitri Yoherniakov. The Bolshoi's incomparable singers including
the sensational Ekaterina Scherbachenko together with the celebrated
orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre under the baton of Dmitri Jorowski,
perform Pushkin's tragic story of the passion of the innocent and ardent
Tatiana for the handsome Onegin. The opera is set against the scenic
beauty, torment and spectacle. Eugene Onegin is the most emotional opera
of Tchaikovsky that people have ever seen. The triumphant success is due
to the young director, Dmitri Tcherniakov whose faultless handling is
spectacular. The production possesses a rarely seen strength and
intelligence in such a powerful score and story. Though the opera looks
simple and alluring, in reality, it is very complex in drama and
psychology. There is pathos so deep and abiding, very few may understand
the torment and the serenity intertwined.
‘The guardian angel’
Fabled as it was, Tchaikovsky had a guardian angel whom he never met
but supported him financially and emotionally. She was an affluent,
cultured and wealthy widow who opted to remain out of his life. But for
over 13 years she corresponded with him passionately, and Tchaikovsky
responding with the same fervour. It was an unusual relationship as they
kept regularly corresponding sometimes as much as daily, and was the
perfect relationship he wanted; a replacement for his precious mother
who died young. The woman kept financing heavily on the strict
understanding they will not be involved in a personal level. But with
time, the gracious Mme von Meck gave way and invited Tchaikovsky to
visit her but he declined saying that one must never meet one's guardian
face to face. Once they did meet accidentally face to face and they
turned crimson with embarrassment and fled without speaking to each
other. And no one knows why? She remained very inspirational to him and
many of his compositions were inspired by her mystery and generosity.One
factor that distinguishes Tchaikovsky above all his Russian
contemporaries is the gift of melody. People were drawn to him over and
over again to hear his glorious scores. Tchaikovsky more than once
admitted that he was much at ease composing for ballets over operas.
This resulted him scoring for full length ballets such as the Swan Lake
and Sleeping Beauty along with the Nutcracker.
But the opera, Eugene Onegin brought out his brilliance in its
repertoire. He accepted the fact that his glorious Fourth Symphony had
the equal merits on Eugene Onegin. He described them as symphonic
fantasy though these compositions are very serious and prolific. The
opera is Tchaikovsky's indisputable operatic masterpiece. It is among
the first fruits of his platonic relationship with Nadezhka von Meck and
followed the disaster of his marriage to Antonina Miyukva.
The ‘convenient’ marriage between the two was a farce. It was meant
to combat the remorse of the composer's gay leanings. It had a strong
effect on the opera. The libretto is based on a poem by Pushkin and
tells the story of Titania's love for the elegant Onegin. The most
famous scene in it is known as the Letter Scene in Act 1 which ranks
with the finest and most moving operas. In the scene the provocative
Titania releases her pent-up feelings and writes to her beloved Onegin.
It is the first part of the opera to be composed. However, the Waltz in
Act. II and Polonaise in Act. III are often played separately the way
the London Philharmonic Orchestra does.
Credits : Music – Tchaikovsky's
Direction – Dmitri Techerniakov
Conducting – Dmitri Jurowski
Tatania – Ektareina Scherbachenko with the Orchestra of the Bolshoi