On a chilly evening, students of EF Academy Oxford gathered in front of Oxford New Theater to watch the well-known opera, Eugene Onegin. The opera was written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1898 and is an example of a lyric opera. The plot of Eugene Onegin was inspired by Pushkin’s verse novel with the same name but Tchaikovsky made the opera consist only of the highlights and emotional peaks in Onegin’s life so the story was not continuous throughout. The singers sang entirely in Russian and with each scene there was a live orchestral accompaniment.
This was the first opera I had seen before and my previous expectations about what it would be liked were proven to all be wrong. At first, I thought that operas were just a singer singing pieces with an orchestra accompanying them and so I originally went only to listen to music but I was pleasantly surprised when I realized the show also had its own unique story to tell and despite Eugene Onegin lacking a continuous story, the plot was still utterly captivating.
The story began by introducing Eugene’s love interest, Tatyana, and her family before continuing on to when Eugene and Tatyana would first meet. From then Tatyana would fall madly in love with Eugene only to be rejected. Eugene’s reckless and selfish character becomes more prominent throughout the plot especially when he attempts to take revenge on his best friend, Vladimir, for taking him to ball that he did not enjoy by seducing his lover. Vladimir becomes extremely upset and then challenges Eugene to a duel which he agrees to and Eugene’s pride leads him to win the duel at the expense of his best friend’s life. The story’s careless hero returns to the country after a long while of being abroad trying to recover from the fatal duel he had with his friend only to find that the Tatyana had grown up and become a beautiful and sophisticated woman who is now married to the prince. Eugene attempts to amend the mistakes of his past and seduce her but he’s too late. Even though she says she loves him she firmly decides to stay faithful to her husband and the opera ends with her saying ‘Goodbye Forever’ to Eugene as he is left to break down in despair.
Overall, Eugene Onegin was beautifully crafted and the compositions written by Tchaikovsky to accompany each emotional peak made the opera significantly more moving. The singers were also extremely talented, reaching notes I had not realized a human could reach and the orchestra was amazing as well, particularly the wind section, in my opinion.
The experience was wonderful and the show was fascinating, I’m looking forward to watching Madama Butterfly in February and many more operas in the future.
Written by: Mumtaza Chairannisa, A-level Year 1 student