MIRELLA FRENI sings Tatyana's Letter Scene 'Puskai pogibnu ya', from Act One of the opera 'Eugene Onegin' by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (live).
Mirella Freni, soprano
James Allen Gähres, conductor
Ulm Philharmonic (Philharmoniker Ulm)
Performance live recording.
Live recorded during open public performance.
Ulm, Germany, October 2000.
Sung in Russian.
Don Giovanni - Mirella Freni & Nicolai Ghiaurov 'Là ci darem la mano', James A. Gähres, cond. (live):
Tchaikovsky wrote Eugene Onegin in 1878, using a libretto by Konstantin Shilovsky and himself, based on the epic poem by Pushkin. The composer was first drawn to the project by the famous 'letter scene', in which Tatyana declares her affections for Onegin. Tchaikovsky provided music for this scene, at least the latter part of it, first and built the rest of the work around it, ultimately producing his most popular opera.
If the libretto supplies many opportunities for dramatic scenes, Tchaikovsky's music certainly rises to almost every occasion. As Tatyana writes the letter, for instance, the music suggests her innocence, and seems to convey the act of writing, as well: the oboe singing an animated and typically Tchaikovskian motif, with the clarinet, flute, and horn providing subtle commentary, invokes a feeling of both intimacy and action, a private venting of one's thoughts and passions. Tatyana is given a beautiful and moving theme here, and the whole scene is set afire emotionally. Near the end a horn motif appears, which permeates much of the opera, serving as a sort of motto theme.
Lensky's aria preceding the duel is another highlight of the opera. In fact, his music is probably more attractive than that of Onegin, a character Tchaikovsky rather despised. That is one reason he made Tatyana the central figure in the opera, despite Onegin's protagonist status in Pushkin's poem.
The opera was first performed on March 29, 1879 at the Maly Theatre (Малый театр), Moscow, conducted by Nikolai Rubinstein.
Perhaps nowhere in opera does the letter take on more significance than in Eugene Onegin. Tatyana, a young girl who spends half of her time in the fantasy world of romance novels, has fallen in love with Eugene Onegin, an emotionally distant visitor from Saint Petersburg. Unable to sleep, Tatiana spends the night pouring out her love for Onegin in a letter which undergoes multiple drafts. As she finishes, the first light of dawn appears. Throughout the scene, Tchaikovsky’s music evokes Tatyana’s fluttering heartbeat, her youthful elation, mixed with fear of rejection.
Romance novel fantasy is replaced with hard reality as Eugene Onegin‘s three acts unfold. Tatyana’s innocence is shattered when Onegin rejects her. By the time he returns, years later, she has married Prince Gremin and settled into the life of an aristocratic wife. Stunned, Onegin now realizes that he loves Tatiana and writes her a letter of his own. In the opera’s final scene, Tatiana admits to Onegin that she still loves him, but she refuses to betray her husband. She bids him a permanent farewell, and he is left in despair as the curtain falls.
Tchaikovsky was born May 7, 1840 in Votkinsk, Russia. He began taking piano lessons at age four and studying harmony with Zaremba in 1861, and enrolled at the St. Petersburg Conservatory the following year, eventually studying composition with Anton Rubinstein.
In 1866, the composer relocated to Moscow, accepting a professorship of harmony at the new conservatory. His opera The Voyevoda came in 1867-1868 and he began another, The Oprichnik, in 1870, completing it two years later. Other works were appearing during this time, as well, including the First String Quartet (1871), the Second Symphony (1873), and the ballet Swan Lake (1875).
In 1876, Tchaikovsky traveled to Paris with his brother, Modest, and then visited Bayreuth, where he met Liszt, but was snubbed by Wagner. By 1877, Tchaikovsky was an established composer. This was the year of Swan Lake's premiere and the time he began work on the Fourth Symphony (1877-1878).
Further excursions abroad came in the 1880s, along with a spate of successful compositions, including the Serenade for Strings (1881), 1812 Overture (1882), and the Fifth Symphony (1888). In both 1888 and 1889, Tchaikovsky went on successful European tours as a conductor, meeting Brahms, Grieg, Dvorák, Gounod, and other notable musical figures. Sleeping Beauty was premiered in 1890, and The Nutcracker in 1892, both with success.
Throughout Tchaikovsky's last years, he was continually plagued by anxiety and depression. A trip to Paris and the United States followed one dark nervous episode in 1891. Tchaikovsky wrote his Sixth Symphony, 'Pathétique', in 1893, and it was successfully premiered in October, that year. The composer died November 6, 1893 in St. Petersburg.