Opera in three acts by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky Text adapted from Pushkin’s tale
The first act shows a garden, in which Frau Larina, owner of a country estate, is preserving fruit and listening to the song of her daughters. It has been familiar to her since youth, when she loved a careless officer, but was compelled to marry an unloved husband. She has gradually accustomed herself to her fate, however, and has found happiness in the love of a good man. The peasants bring in the harvest wreath. Larina’s daughter Tatjana grows pensive with the music, while her lively sister, Olga, prefers to dance. All are astonished at the pallor of Tatjana, and believe she is affected by the contents of a book she is reading. Lenski arrives in a wagon, accompanied by his neighbor Onegin. It soon appears that Tatjana loves Onegin, while Lenski is attracted to Olga. The latter soon comes to an agreement, while Onegin remains stiffly polite to Tatjana.
Tech scene changes to Tatjana’s room. She is about to retire, and begs the nurse Filipjewna to tell her stories. While listening she tries to conceal her emotion. At last she confesses to the old nurse that she is in love, an sends her away. Instead of sleeping, she writes letters, but tears them up when written. At last she finishes one and seals it. She remains at the window the rest of the night, and when Filipjewna arrives in the morning, she sends the letter secretly to Onegin.
Again we are taken to the garden. A number of maids gather berries and sing. Tatjana arrives, running in excitement, and throws herself on the sward, followed by Onegin, who has received her letter. He explains to her coldly that he honors the candor of her confession, but cannot fulfill her hopes, as he is a profligate and not suited to the marriage state. A maiden’s love is only fantasy, and she must overcome it. Deeply hurt, Tatjana departs.
The second act begins in a room in Larina’s house, filled with a merry crowd. Lenski dances with Olga, Onegin with Tatjana. They are compelled to endure the tattling of the older dames. Notwithstanding the protest of Lenski, Onegin asks Olga to dance. Lenski is angry with Olga because she is flirting with Onegin, and becomes so jealous that the girl, to punish him, says that she will dance the quadrille with Onegin. Before it begins, the Frenchman Triquet sings a song of doubtful character to he praise of Tatjana, which is received with applause. Onegin dances with Olga, a captain with Tatjana, and Lenski stands moodily apart. When Onegin asks him what is wrong, he answers angrily; a quarrel ensues, and the dance is interrupted. Amid general consternation Lenski asks his friend to fight a duel.
Now follows a change of scene to a mill. It is early in the morning. Lenski and his second, Saretzki, are impatiently awaiting their opponents. At last Onegin arrives, accompanied only by his servant, who is to act as second. While he arranges with Saretzki, the erstwhile friends regret that they are now enemies. Lenski falls dead, struck by the bullet of Onegin, and Onegin, overwhelmed with grief, falls upon the body of his friend.
The third act, six years later, discloses a hall in the palace of Prince Gremin, where company is gathered. The hostess is Princess Gremina (Tatjana). Onegin is among her guests. He has found no peace, and is constantly troubled with pangs of conscience. He learns that the Princess is Tatjana, and she is profoundly agitated when she meets him. The Prince tells Onegin that he loves his wife passionately, and introduces him to her. She addresses a few indifferent words to him, and is led away by her husband. Onegin gazes after her. He feels that he loves her, laments his former conduct, and resolves to gain her affection.
The closing scene takes place in the reception room in the palace of the Prince. Tatjana has received a message from Onegin that he will visit her. She still loves him, but she wishes to retain her peace of mind, and when he appears she reminds him with deep emotion of the conversation in the garden. She has pardoned him and acknowledges that he had acted rightly, but declares it to be his duty to leave and never return. Notwithstanding his outbreak of passion, she remains firm and leaves him. Completely cast down, he stands silent, and then rushes away in despair.