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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 strings.

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.

Brilliance

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 Theatre

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