Director Notes | Eugene Onegin

Mar 28, 2022

When Mrs. Lavrovskaja proposed the Pushkin versed Eugene Onegin to Tchaikovsky, he wasn’t so sure about writing an opera based on this story. But after a day and a lot of thought he wrote to his brother saying, “I don't mind that there is no action, I am in love with the character of Tatyana, I am fascinated by Pushkin's verses."

The same happened to me when I first read the opera. Tatyana’s character became, in my imagination, a real, deep human being with desires, regrets, and pains.

A young woman able to look inside herself, deciding to come out with her feelings in front of the world.

A society that is always ready to judge and gossiping, but never helpful or supportive.

A mother who, in her life, has chosen, or has been forced to choose, an existence made of habits and resignation.

Her sister Olga, who hides her selfishness behind a fake happiness.

And at last, Onegin, perhaps a self-portrait of Tchaikovsky himself, a man incapable of living his life properly, hiding himself behind a boredom of living, filling his soul with demons; a man that arrives to kill his best friend Lensky over a stupid matter of pride.

In this panorama I have decided to tell this story through the eyes of Tatyana, the most beloved character of Tchaikovsky himself, but thirty years later when she can revisit her whole life, looking at her choices, strengths, and weaknesses.

She will be the silent witness of her own life. Step by step she will go through her naïve youth, her deep love, and her dream’s failure. Each of the other characters will be drowned in her memories.

I have also made the decision to update the story to the 1950’s, a society that was trying to evolve, but was still chained to old use and habits. Nevertheless, the relation is more recognizable and closer to us.

Tchaikovsky described his Onegin not as an opera, but as “lyric scenes” and I wanted to follow this advice. Therefore, like an iris of a camera that closes and opens again, the memories will appear, and the audience will come inside, scene by scene, together with Tatyana, experiencing with her the flavor of a life lived.

To describe the society that orbits around this story, we have designed a set that portrays, in each act, a psychological development of the characters, but always in an oneiric world that arrives from afar. A big table, that will change in every act, will be the metaphoric idea of social meeting.

In a corner, a little room of memories where the old Tatyana goes through her life. Only at the end of the opera will the past and the present meet for a brief moment and share the feeling of a lost dream.

— Rosetta Cucchi , director

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