The première of the opera Evgheni Oneghin took place on the 17th of March 1879, at the Music Conservatory in Moscow.
It was followed, on the 11th of June 1881, by the première performed at the Bolshoy Theater in Moscow.
In our country, Tchaikovsky’s opera was performed for the first time at the Bucharest Opera House, on the 13th of March 1938.
The widow Larina lives in the country side, together with her daughters Tatiana and Olga, as well as with the nurse Filippievna. Tatiana is contemplating by nature, a dreamer, fond of literature and poetry, while Olga is joyful and lively, always fond of excitement and parties. One day, the poet Lenski, Olga’s beloved, comes to their residence, accompanied by a young aristocrat, Evgheni Oneghin, whose apparently elegant manners hide a terrible spiritual dryness, a blazé state coming from the wealth and success he has obtained too easily in his life. Oneghin’s self-confidence and easy manners have a striking impact over Tatiana’s sensitivity, nourished by her novel readings.
In Tatiana’s bedroom, the old nurse Filippievna is subject to a never-ending series of questions. Sleep will not come to the young girl, who would be ready to talk to the nurse all night long about her love and about Oneghin. Eventually, she decides to write him al letter, sincerely confessing the feelings she has for him, and also asking him to meet with her.
Oneghin receives the letter and decides to meet with Tatiana.She is deeply anxious, as she is totally possessed by the joy of sharing her feelings with her sweetheart. She thinks that her life, which she considers to have been empty so far, will gain a new meaning. But Oneghin confesses in his detached, icy manner, that her love for him does not mean anything to him, and that a marriage would be for him nothing more than endless boredom. Disappointed and offended, Tatiana retires: her momentary dream has been swept off.
The scene takes place at a ball at Larin’s residence. They are celebrating Tatiana’s anniversary, and the guests are joining the whirl of waltz. Bored with the far too modest party, as compared to his former experiences, Oneghin tries to retire and starts wooing Olga. The poet Lenski dramatizes, a fight rises between them ending with a challenge: the two friends will fight a duel.
The decisive confrontation between Lenski and Oneghin is going to take place at the break of a winter morning. Seized with dark presentiments, the poet laments over his gloomy, tormenting mood. But neither Oneghin’s arrival nor the two friends’ regrets make any difference: their pride is stronger than their wish to forgive and forget. One moment later, Lenski collapses, shot by Oneghin, and their regrets are useless.
Many years pass by. Oneghin went abroad in order to stifle his remorse. Disappointed and resigned, Tatiana has accepted the proposal of the old prince Gremin, who treats her with kindness and gentle affection. Back to the country, Oneghin comes to a ball at Gremin’s house and he feels extremely uneasy when meeting Tatiana. Memories come back to him, and he realizes that it is only now that he is falling in love.
Realizing that in the past he mistook his feelings for Tatiana, Oneghin tries to regain her love. But the honest Tatiana rejects him, although her old passion for him is seething in her heart. Left alone, Oneghin laments over his wasted life, finally aware of having not listened to the voice of true love.