12 Facts About "Eugene Onegin" You Did Not Realize

"Eugene Onegin" is one of the most popular Russian operas. But do we really know everything about this story?

The opera is based on the iconic novel in verse “Eugene Onegin” by Alexander Pushkin - a cornerstone of Russian literature. The libretto stays very close to the original text. However, some quite interesting facts are not included in the opera, and can only be found in the original novel.

1. All main characters are very young - at the beginning of the opera Onegin is 26, Lensky is 17, Tatyana is only 13 years old, Olga is even younger. By the end of the opera, Tatyana is probably about 17 years old.

There are discussions among researchers about Tatyana's and Olga's ages. However, this is what we can get directly from Pushkin's text.

Illustration from "Eugene Onegin" edition (1908) by Samokish-Sudakovskaya

This also helps us to see that the differences between Olga and Tatyana come not just from their personalities. Tatyana has entered her puberty period; she is consumed by doubts, dreams and exploration of her sexuality. Olga is literally still a child; she simply wants to play and is not able to really appreciate Lensky’s love just yet.

The FULL PACK for Olga's aria (Diction score (sheet music with IPA phonetics and translations), Diction audio guide, Music coaching audio guide (Voice line + piano line), Rehearsal backing track (Piano line only)) is available here.

Here you can find the FULL PACK for "Duet of Olga and Tatyana" (Act 1 Scene 1) - CONCERT VERSION (the full opera scene is coming out soon)

This also explains why Lensky is so quick to challenge his older friend. Onegin, being 26 and having lots of previous experience with women, does not expect that Lensky will take his slight flirt with Olga so seriously. However, Lensky is still a teenager. He is taking everything overly dramatically, he is lacking experience, wisdom and also feels the need to prove himself as a man.

An older person could have done what Larina's husband did. He realized that she was in love with someone else, so they got quickly married and he took her away to live in the countryside. And after time the love of her youth was forgotten.

Illustration from "Eugene Onegin" edition (1908) by Samokish-Sudakovskaya

cropped from http://clubs.ya.ru/4611686018427431435/replies.xml?item_no=1034

Here you can find the FULL PACK for Onegin's Aria "Vy mne pisali... Kogda by zhizn"

Pushkin himself was quite young at that time too; he was working on this novel for seven years - he started when he was just 24 and finished at 31.

Alexander Pushkin. Portrait by Orest Kiprensky

2. At the beginning of the story, Lensky had just returned from Germany where he studied and embraced European philosophical ideas of that time. This detail made him stand out among all his neighbours. These were mostly people concerned with their children and household, their crops and the little news of their provincial life. They perceived Lensky as the 'half-Russian poet' and a good potential party for their daughters. Onegin was the only person among all of them who was somewhat close to Lensky in his education and background. This is why they became friends despite the difference in age and personalities.

You can find the FULL PACK for "Lensky's Arioso" from Act 1 "Ya lyublyu vas..." / "I love you..." here.

Illustration from "Eugene Onegin" edition (1908) by Samokish-Sudakovskaya

It is interesting that in "Queen of Spades" Pushkin takes this concept even further - he makes Hermann a German national, underlining his loneliness, lack of roots, any substantial fortune and lack of extended family support in Russia.

3. Tatyana wrote her letter to Onegin in French because her written Russian was not good enough. At that time, French was the language of high society in Russia, and for Tatyana, like for many other women of her generation, French was her primary language. She would probably talk to Onegin, Lensky, her sister, her mother and later to her husband in French too and use Russian mostly to talk to the servants who did not speak French.

Watch Tatyana's letter scene performed by Anna Netrebko (with English subtitles)

The FULL PACK for this amazing scene (Diction score (sheet music with IPA phonetics and translations), Diction audio guide, Music