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Pushkin in operas

Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799 – 1837) was a Russian poet, playwright, and novelist of the Romantic era who is considered by many to be the greatest Russian poet and the founder of modern Russian literature.

Pushkin's works provided fertile ground for Russian composers. Glinka's Ruslan and Lyudmila is the earliest important Pushkin-inspired opera, and a landmark in the tradition of Russian music. Tchaikovsky's operas Eugene Onegin (1879) and The Queen of Spades (La Dame de Pique, 1890) became perhaps better known outside of Russia than Pushkin's own works of the same name.

Mussorgsky's monumental Boris Godunov ranks as one of the very finest and most original of Russian operas. Other Russian operas based on Pushkin include Dargomyzhsky's Rusalka and The Stone Guest; Rimsky-Korsakov's Mozart and Salieri, Tale of Tsar Saltan, and The Golden Cockerel.

Operas based on works A.S.Pushkin

Rusalka is an opera in four acts, six tableaux, by Alexander Dargomyzhsky, composed during 1848-1855. The Russian libretto was adapted by the composer from Pushkin's incomplete dramatic poem of the same name. It premiered on 4 May 1856 (Old Style) at the Theatre-circus, conducted by Konstantin Lyadov (father of Anatoly Lyadov), choreographed by Marius Petipa and Nikolay Goltz, but was badly received predominantly by the aristocracy.


Alexander Dargomizhsky: Rusalka 
The Miller: Yuri Mathiukin
Natasha: Elena Zelenskaya
The Prince: Anatoly Zaitchenko
The Princess: Tatiana Yerastova
Olga:Galina Yerkova
The Wedding Master: Sergey Mursaev
Rusalocka: Anna Stikatirova
Bolshoi Theater Choir and Orchestra
Mark Ermler, conductor


Aleko (Russian: Алеко) is the first of three completed operas by Sergei Rachmaninoff. The Russian libretto was written by Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko and is an adaptation of the poem The Gypsies by Alexander Pushkin. The opera was written in 1892 as a graduation work at the Moscow Conservatory, and it won the highest prizes from the conservatory judges that year. It was first performed in Moscow 19 May 1892.

Mavra is a one-act opera buffa composed by Igor Stravinsky, and one of the earliest works of Stravinsky's neo-classical period. The libretto of the opera, by Boris Kochno, is based on Alexander Pushkin's The Little House in Kolomna. Mavra is about 25 minutes long, and features two arias, a duet, and a quartet performed by its cast of four characters. Premiere    3 June 1922

Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky

Eugene Onegin

"Eugen Onegin" illustrations by Nikolay Kuzmin and Mstislav Dobuzhinsky

Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky

Eugene Onegin

In May of 1877, a singer named Elizaveta Lavrovskaya suggested to Tchaikovsky the subject of Pushkin's poem Eugen Onegin as the subject for an opera. During the same month he received a letter from one Antonina Milyukova, a twenty-eight-year-old conservatory student whom be could scarcely remember having ever met It said that she bad long been in love with him.

In Eugen Onegin the heroine, Tatiana, writes Eugen a letter saying that she has long been in love with him. Eugen tells her that he cannot love her in return. The result is disaster.


Tchaikovsky, more than half in love with the heroine Tatiana, thought Eugen a cad. But he was not in love with his real-life correspondent, so he tried to do as Eugen had done and put Antonina off^ He wrote a polite, cool answer; he received a warm one in reply; he went to see her; he became convinced that she would never survive his loss; he proposed; he was accepted; he was married. Disaster.

The pardlel between the story of the opera Tchaikovsky was working on and the tragedy he was working out in real life can, of course, be pushed too far. There are some striking differences. Tatiana was beautiful, wealthy, intelligent, sensitive; Antonina was plain-looking, poor, bird-brained, insensitive. (When Nikolai Rubinstein, acting for Tchaikovsky, came to ask her to consent to a divorce, she seemed to be more impressed with having so distinguished a guest for tea than with the important message he carried.) Onegin was an independent, blandly brutal, philandering man of the world; Tchaikovsky was a dependent, neurotically sensitive, impractical homosexual. Yet he quixotically tried to act as nobly as he believed Onegin should have acted, and thе fearful emotional upheaval that followed, including a serious but ineffectual attempt at suicide, must in some way have been reflected in the opera that he began with his odd courtship and that he completed not very long after the marriage had broken up.

It is a strongly melodic, nervous score, and of all his ten operas only Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades remain a permanent part of Russia's repertoire and have made their way all around the worlds




Opera in three acts by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky with libretto in Russian largely by the composer based on the narrative poem of the same by Alexandre Sergevich Pushkin


Madame Larina

Tatiana, her daughter
Olga, her daughter

Filipievna, Tatiana's nurse

Vladimir Lenski, Olga's fiance, a poet

Eugen Onegin, his friend

Monsieur Triquet, a French tutor
Zaretski, a friend of Lenski's

Prince Gremin, a retired general



Time: early 19th century
Place: Russia

First performance at Moscow, March 29, 1879


Mme Larina:

Mezzo-soprano. A landowner, mother of Tatyana and Olga. The local peasants bring in the harvest and dance for her. Her neighbour, Lensky, calls on her, bringing with him his friend, Eugene Onegin. Once she has greeted them, Mme Larina leaves her guests to be entertained by her daughters. She gives a party for Tatyana on her nameday, to which the two men are invited. To her consternation they quarrel, challenging each other to a duel and she is most upset to think that this can have happened in her house. Created (1879) by Maria Rainer.

Евгений Онегин - Марьинский театр - 2015


Soprano. Daughter of Mme Larina and sister of Olga. She falls in love with Eugene Onegin when he is brought to their house by his friend Lensky, who loves Olga. Unable to sleep that night, Tatyana asks her old nurse about her own young days and how she knew when she was in love. She confesses her thoughts about Onegin to Filipyevna and then writes him a letter admitting her feelings for him. When next they meet, Onegin humiliates her by rejecting her love. At her birthday party she finds it difficult to respond when Mons. Triquet sings to her, and she morosely watches Onegin flirting with her sister. He is challenged to a duel by the jealous Lensky and Lensky is killed. Onegin leaves town. Tatyana marries the wealthy Prince Gremin. Two years later, at a ball in St Petersburg, she and Onegin meet again. He realizes he is in love with her and she admits that she still loves him. However, she is determined to remain loyal to Gremin and sends the now despairing Onegin away. Aria: Puskay pogibnu ya (‘Even if it means I die’). This is the famous letter-song, a long 12-minute showpiece for the soprano. It is around this letter-song that Tchaikovsky developed much of the music for the opera. Tatyana was the character who attracted him to Pushkin's verse, rather than the Onegin of Pushkin's title. The role requires a dramatic soprano with great vocal flexibility. One of the most famous interpreters in recent years was Galina Vishnevskaya (wife of the cellist/conductor Mstislav Rostropovich), a fine dramatic singer. She chose this as her operatic retirement performance, in Paris in 1982. Created (1879) by Maria Klimentova.

Galina Vishnevskaya; "Puskai pogibnu ya"; Letter Scene; Eugene Onegin; Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky


Mezzo-soprano. Daughter of Mme Larina and younger sister of Tatyana. She makes Lensky jealous by flirting with his friend Eugene Onegin at her sister's birthday party, thus being partly responsible for the tragedy that ensues. Aria: Ya ne sposobna k grusti tomnoy (‘I am no good at languid melancholy’). Created ( 1879 ) by Alexandra Devitskaya.

Ach Tania Tania - aria Olgi z opery Eugeniusz Oniegin Piotra Czajkowskiego Olga Maroszek - kontralt

Vladimir Lensky:

Tenor. A neighbour of the Larin family, he comes to visit them accompanied by his friend Eugene Onegin. Lensky admits he is in love with the younger Larin daughter, Olga. At Tatyana's birthday party, Onegin flirts with Olga and, angry, Lensky challenges him to a duel. Both men realize that things have gone too far—a duel is out of all proportion to the ‘crime’, but honour prevents them admitting this. Waiting for Onegin to arrive at the chosen site, Lensky sings his farewell to Olga. To Onegin's horror, Lensky is killed in the duel. Aria: Kuda, kuda vï udalilis (‘Whither, ah whither are ye fled’). Created (1879) by Mikhail Ivanovich Medvyedev (Bernstein).

Nicolai Gedda; "Kuda, kuda, kuda vi udalilis"; Lensky's Aria

Eugene Onegin:


Baritone. A friend of Lensky, he is brought to the Larin house and there meets the two daughters, Lensky's fiancée Olga and her elder sister Tatyana, who quickly falls in love with him. She writes a letter to him, confessing her feelings. When they next meet, he rejects her love, pointing out that he can regard her only in a brotherly way. Bored at her birthday party, he flirts with her sister Olga, thus making Lensky jealous and Lensky challenges him to a duel. They meet at dawn, each realizing that the joke has gone too far, neither wanting to proceed, but both, for the sake of honour, feeling the duel must take place. To his horror, Onegin kills Lensky and rapidly leaves the area. Some two years later he is invited to a party at Prince Gremin's palace and recognizes Gremin's wife as Tatyana. He realizes he is in love with her. He contrives to see her alone and she sends for him the next day. He declares his love, but she points out that she is now married and must remain loyal to her husband, while admitting that she still loves Onegin. She bids him farewell and he collapses in despair. Aria: Uvï, somnen'ya net (‘Alas, there is no doubt’). Created (1879) by Sergey Vasilyevich Gilev.

Eugene Onegin Act 1 (opera in concert performance) 
Larina, lady of the manor - Svetlana Sozdateleva;
Tatyana, her daughter - Dina Kuznetsova;
Olga, Tatyana's sister - Alina Shakirova;
Filippyevna, a nurse - Irina Udalova;
Lensky - Alexei Tatarintsev;
Yevgeny Onyegin - Igor Golovatenko;
Prince Gremin - Stanislav Shvets;
Zaretsky - Grigory Shkarupa;
Triquet, a Frenchman - Konstantin Pluzhnikov;
Russian National Orchestra, Moscow Chamber Choir;
Mikhail Pletnev - conductor.



Bass. Acts as second to Lensky when he meets Onegin to fight a duel. Created (1879) by D. M. Tarkhov.

Eugene Onegin Act 2 (opera in concert performance) 

Prince Gremin:


Bass. An aristocratic retired general, Gremin marries Tatyana after she has been rejected by Onegin. Two years afterwards, at a ball in the Gremin palace in St Petersburg, Onegin meets the Princess, Gremin's wife, and realizes it is Tatyana and that he does love her. Gremin describes to Onegin, whom he has known for some years, what happiness his marriage has brought him, despite the difference in age between himself and Tatyana. Aria: Lyubvi vse vozrastï pokornï (‘To love all ages are obedient’). Created (1879) by Vasily Makhalov.


Eugene Onegin Act 3 (opera in concert performance) 


Scene 1
Madame Larina is a well--to-do upper-middle-class woman who rejoices in her two daughters and large estate. In her garden she and her servant Filipievna, with whom she appears to be on pretty intimate terms, are preparing jam, while inside the house, her two daughters, Tatiana and Olga, are practicing a duet. The duet becomes a female quartet when Madame Larina confides in her servant how romantic she was as a young girL Deeply affected, she says, by the novels of Richardson, especially Sir Charles Grandison, she made a loveless marriage which nevertheless turned out pretty well. A chorus of peasants approaches the domestic scene, and then dances and sings folk music (or at least folk-like music) for the ladies. Tatiana is made rather romantically pensive by the performance; Olga, on the other hand, is made to feel gay; and she gives voice to her pleasantly extrovert philosophy of life in a little aria.

When Filipievna has led the peasants оff to reward them with wine, Tatiana is warned by her mother not to be too moody, not to take those romantic navels she has been reading so seriously. There аre no real heroes in everyday life, as she herself has learned.

At that moment Tatiana’s hero-to-be enters the story. He is Eugen Onegin, a wealthy young fellow who has been so much a man about town that he is, at the moment, weary of it all. He comes for a polite call with his friend Lenski, a neighboring poet engaged to Olga. The mother of the two girls leaves them to entertain the two young men, and in the ensuing quartet it becomes evident that Lenski is in earnest puppyish love with his Olga (he hasn't seen her for a whole day!), while Onegin is rather casually attracted to Tatiana. Tatiana, for her part, is at once attracted to Onegin, and she wanders off to the lake with him, leaving the happy fiances to moon sweetly to each other.

Supper is ready in the house, and Filipievna summons the two wanderers. When they reappear, Onegin continues his conquest of Tatiana by simply relating a bit of family history. The wise old Filipievna knows exactly what is happening, even it Tatiana does not realize it as yet.

Scene 2  Past ordinary bedtime, and already undressed, Tatiana finds sleep impossible and begs Filipievna to tell her a story. The servant obliges with a recital of her own loveless marriage, thus inspiring Tatiana to confide that she herselr is dreadfully in love. She begs Filipievna not to tell anyone, asks for her writing desk, and wishes her a good night.

Now begins the famous Letter Scene, which Tchaikovsky composed even before he prepared the libretto for the rest of the opera. It was the passage in Pushkin's narrative which most strongly attracted him at the time, and this fact lends color to the idea that the poem was at least in part the inspiiation for his own unwise behavior in relation to Antonina Milyukova.

The scene begins as she summons up courage to compose a letter to Onegin; she then writes portions of it, reads it aloud, and finally completes it. The letter tells Onegin that she is completely committed to him and asks only for pity in return. Tatiana is inspired by the idea that she has been predestined to love Onegin and Onegin only; and though the letter admits that if she had not met him she might have loved another, yet she herself is convinced that she has been reserved for him by fate.

By the time the letter is signed and sealed, it is dawn, and Filipievna coming to wake her mistress, is surprised to find her already out of bed. Tatiana begs her to ask her son to deliver the letter, and tries to avoid naming Onegin by saying it is for "a neighbor."' Filipievna mischievously pretends to be deaf and forces the girl to repeat the name of her lover. She had known all along, of course and when Tatiana is left alone once more, she wonders what the result of her bold advance may be.


Scene 3  In "another part of the garden" peasants are singing, with dramatic appositeness, about the danger to girls if they choose a wrong lover. Tatiana. very much upset, rushes in. She has seen Onegin approaching and is already regretting her rash impulse.

When they are alone, Onegin tells her, in his aria, almost exactly what Tchaikovsky had tried to tell Antonina in his letter. He is entirely respectful, even friendly, but he makes it clear that marriage is not for the likes of him, and that what might begin as love would surely grow cold. Tatiana is utterly devastated; and off-stage the chorus repeats its folk wisdom about girls who choose wrongly. 



Scene 1  
It is Tatiana's birthday, and Madame Larina has arranged a dance to celebrate the occasion. All the gentry within calling distance have been invited, and to the tune of the waltz that is sometimes played as a concert piece, the older guests comment on the goings-on. The most interesting thing to note is that Onegin is dancing with Tatiana, and the wiseacres predict a possible wedding, even though the groom has a somewhat unsavory reputation. Onegin is annoved, and, besides, he is angry at his friend Lenski for having brought him to so dull a provincial assembly. By way of retaliation he dances off with Lenski's fiancee, Olga, at the first opportunity; and when that dance is over. Lenski accuses the girl of flirting. Onegin pursues his tormenting tactics by reminding Olga that she has promised him the next cotillion, and, to punish her jealous swain, she walks off with Onegin.


The tension is temporarily relieved when the elderly Monsieur Triquet entertains the company with a formal, gallant song he has composed for the occasion in praise of the birthday child, Tatiana. The verses, being quite neatly turned and in French (the language of all nineteenth-century Russian snobs), pleases everyone but Tatiana, who is plainly embar-rassed.

Now the old-fashioned cotillion begins, and when the first turn is over, Onegin taunts Lenski with the observation that he looks as severe as Childe Harolde himself. Lenski becomes more and more outraged and, with the guests crowding around, he finally challenges his friend to a dueL A great ensemble develops, in which each of the characters -as well as the chorus—expresses appropriate sentiments, that of Onegin being regret over having carried his teasing of his friend too far. There is now, however, no help for it, and he accepts the challenge for a duel to take place the next morning. Tatiana weeps and Olga faints.

scene 2  Beside a mill, beside a stream, early in the morning Lenski and his second, Zaretski, are awaiting Onegin,

is late. The second goes off to talk to the miller, and Lenski sings what is known as Lenski's Air, the second-best-known tenor aria in Russian opera. (The most familiar of all is the Song of India from Sadko.) It is his passionate farewell to Olga, to love, to youths.

Finally Onegin appears with his second, Gillot, a servant who is frightened by the prospect of a duel and hides behind a tree when the shooting begins. First, however, the two principal sing a duet in canon form—that is, one begins the tune, which the other takes up a moment later. Each shows how he would prefer to resume the old friendship; each decides that the formalities must nevertheless be observed. The duet ends with a dramatic "No!" from both of them. Zaretski then gives the formal instructions; each of the principals steps forward three paces; Onegin fires first; and Lenski is killed. Anguish overwhelms Onegin.


Scene 1  In the St. Petersburg home of a wealthy and middle-aged retired general, Prince Gremin, a fashionable ball is in progress, and the music to which the ballet dances is the Polonaise, often beard at orchestral concerts. It is three or more years since the duel, and Onegin has been spending them wandering in many places and trying to forget. He is now only twenty-six but feels much older, and he has turned up at the home or his distant Idnsman in one more effort to overcome his remorse.

Tatiana is now the Princess Gremin, and, not recognizing her distinguished-looking young guest, she asks who he is and is much moved when she hears the name. Meantime, on the other side of the stage, Onegin is asking Gremin the analogous question about Tatiana. In an impressive aria Prince Gremin sings the praises of his wife, telling Onegin how her love has stood out for him as the one truly ennobling thing in all the wicked world he has known. But when Tatiana and her old lover are formally introduced, she pleads tiredness as an excuse to leave the festivities.


Now Onegin is at last in love himself. He wonders that he ever could have given condescending advice about love to so wonderful a creature; he recalls that he still has the letter she sent him; and in the climax of the aria, he sings the very theme (though in a baritone key) that Tatiana had sung in her Letter Scene, when she decided to dedicate herself to her love for Onegin.

Scene 2  It has now been Onegin's turn to write a letter. Tatiana, in a room in her husband’s house,is awaiting his visit and, holding the letter in her hand, indicates clearly that the next few minutes are going to be trying.

When Onegin rushes to her and goes down on his knees, she attempts to be cold. She suggests that he may be only attracted by the glamour of having a love affair with the wife of a distinguished ornament of society. Onegin’s passion, however, is obviously far more genuine than this. He acknowledges that his former behavior had been sheer madness; he begs for pity; he asks her to run away with him. Tatiana, who has been trying to conquer her real emotions by the earlier show of coldness, now melts and finally sinks into his arms. Yet even during the passionate phrases that follow she knows what she owes to her husband. Summoning all her moral strength, she dismisses Onegin and rushes from the room. Again Onegin is overwhelmed with anguish. 

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