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Eugene Onegin | Photo: Iko Freese drama-berlin.de Eugene Onegin | Photo: Iko Freese drama-berlin.de

What is Eugene Onegin all about?

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Get to know the story of Tchaikovsky’s heart-breaking opera, the music and characters within it, and the production coming to the International Festival this August.

First things first - what is Eugene Onegin all about?

Tchaikovsky’s best-loved opera is a story of love, loss, rejection and despair, and is still seen as one of the most beautiful and lyrical works in Russian music and literature today. It sees the bored, superfluous Onegin live to regret his rejection of the shy young dreamer Tatyana and remorse for his fatal duel with his best friend Lensky, Tatyana’s younger sister Olga’s lover. 

Barrie Kosky, director of the production coming to the International Festival, takes us through the opera and the many stories within it in the video below or, if you don’t mind the spoilers, Classic FM have a beginner’s guide to the opera over on their website.

Click here to watch a captioned version of the video.

So does that mean it doesn’t end well then?

Not exactly… Tatyana’s love is not returned until it’s too late leaving everything very much unresolved. In fact, the tragedy in Eugene Onegin apparently reflects Tchaikovsky’s own life. In 1877, the year the composer began writing the opera based on Pushkin's novel, he received a letter from a former student (just as Onegin did from Tatyana) which led to their marriage. However, the marriage proved disastrous and the couple separated within three months, leaving Tchaikovsky alone and with writer’s block.


Oh, so the opera has been adapted from a book?

Yes! Eugene Onegin was originally a novel in verse written by Alexander Pushkin and is considered a classic of Russian literature. The character of Onegin has even inspired many other literary heroes in works by other notable Russian writers and poets. Tchaikovsky's libretto is mostly taken directly from Pushkin, retaining the complexity of his verse while letting the beautifully subtle words shine through.


But what about the music?

We're glad you asked. Eugene Onegin is Tchaikovsky’s best-loved opera, with warm, heartfelt melodies and dramatic, seductive orchestral music. As well as featuring the beautiful PolonaiseClassic FM have compiled a list of the world’s greatest opera arias and Tatyana’s letter aria is included. In this particular scene, Tatyana, here sang by soprano Asmik Grigorian, pours her heart out in a letter to Onegin, expressing her feelings for him. Have a listen…

Her voice is amazing!

We know! Asmik Grigorian has just won the award for Female Singer of the Year at the Opera Awards and will be portraying the character of Tatyana in the production this August. Here she is talking a bit more about the music and the many reasons she fell in love with Tchaikovsky’s opera.

Click here to watch a captioned version of the video.

What about the production coming to the International Festival this August? What's it like?

This production from Komische Oper Berlin is certainly a feast for the eyes and the ears. Artistic Director Barrie Kosky is one of the most celebrated directors working today, and his playful, provocative and innovative productions have been acclaimed around the world by audiences and critics alike. His portrayal of this tragic love story is spectacular, moving and visually striking. You can see for yourself in the gallery below.

Wow, the staging looks incredible!

Yes, Rebecca Ringst has created an amazing landscape set, while Klaus Bruns' simple but colourful costumes and Franck Evin's evocative lighting help to set the scene even more. And of course we can't forget the live music performed by Latvian-born Ainārs Rubiķis and The Orchestra of the Komische Oper Berlin.


One last question, how do I get my hands on tickets?

It's easy, just go to the event page here, select your preferred date and seats, and voilà! 

It's not as if you need any more reasons to go, but just in case you need any more convincing, watch the trailer for the production of Eugene Onegin at this year's International Festival below. We'll see you there.


Komische Oper Berlin's production of Eugene Onegin comes to the International Festival on 15-17 August 2019.

Eugene Onegin | Photo: Iko Freese

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