Follow TV Tropes


Theatre / Eugene Onegin

Go To
Oh, how the tables have turned... note 

Eugene Onegin (Russian: Евгений Онегин) is a Russian opera in three acts by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, based on Alexander Pushkin's novel of the same name. Set to a libretto by Tchaikovsky himself (with some additions by his friend Konstantin Shilovsky), it closely follows certain passages in Pushkin's novel.

Tatyana Larina, a hopeless young romantic, sees the world as a romance novel, and is a dreamer compared to her spirited sister Olga. One day, the Larin country estate receives a visit from Vladimir Lensky, Olga's fiancé, who is accompanied by his good friend Eugene Onegin, a bored city-dweller. Tatyana falls deeply in love with Onegin, and is motivated to write him a love letter that night. However, much to her despair, Onegin rejects her, telling her that he's not suited for marriage before coldly suggesting that she doesn't wear her heart on her sleeve.


Three months later, it's Tatyana's name day (similar to a birthday, but held on the day that one's name is associated with), and a country ball is being held in her honour. Onegin dances with Tatyana at the ball, but quickly becomes annoyed with the gossip around them. Already irritated with Lensky for making him come, he decides to flirt with Olga, who responds enthusiastically to him. After the two of them repeatedly dance together, which only increases the tension and fuels Lensky's growing anger, Lensky loses his temper and publicly renounces his friendship with Onegin before challenging him to a duel, to which Onegin has no choice but to accept. However, as he waits for Onegin the following dawn, Lensky comes to regret his decision, knowing that he's not going to live. Onegin arrives late, and he doesn't want to follow through with the duel, but it's too late. The duel starts and Onegin shoots Lensky dead.


Years later, Onegin is in a St. Petersburg palace for a ball, reflecting on his extensive travels through Europe and regretting the killing of his best friend, and then reflects on his own empty life. Right then, the ageing war hero Prince Gremin enters the ballroom with his wife Tatyana, now a regal, aristocratic beauty, to Onegin's shock. And right then, Onegin realizes that he's in love with her, and so he writes to her and arranges a private meeting with her.

Upon receiving the letter and meeting him again, Tatyana is deeply conflicted, as old feelings are re-awakened. She and Onegin lament over their near-happiness, but her resolve is much stronger. While she still loves Onegin, she is determined to stay faithful to Gremin, and despite Onegin's desperate pleas, Tatyana bids him farewell forever, leaving him alone and in despair.

After its premiere at the Maly Theatre in Moscow on March 29th, 1879, the opera has become a regularly-performed work in the worldwide operatic repertoire. To this day, it is widely considered to be the quintessential Russian lyric opera, as it doesn't follow traditional operatic structure, but is often described as a series of "lyric scenes". It has also been sung in English, Czech, and Italian as well, but is most commonly performed in its original Russian.

This work provides examples of:

  • Age-Gap Romance: Prince Gremin is much older than Tatyana, but is very much in love with her.
  • Age Lift: Prince Gremin in the novel is implied to be in his thirties. In the opera, he’s much older.
  • Bleed 'em and Weep: Some productions will have Onegin weep after killing his best friend.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor Lensky. He starts out as a romantic, idealistic young man who is deeply in love with Olga. But then Onegin decides to flirt with Olga out of spite, and this very much shatters Lensky's romantic view of the world, leading him to challenge Onegin to a duel. And as he's waiting for the duel to take place, all he can do is lament over his youthful days, and to top it all off, he's shot and killed immediately.
  • Broken Bird: Onegin definitely seems to be this, especially in Act III.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: What Tatyana hopes that she and Onegin will become. Unfortunately, life just isn't like her romance novels.
  • Byronic Hero: Eugene Onegin is a deconstruction.
  • Call-Back: When Onegin realizes that he is in love with Tatyana in Act III, the words he sings are taken from her letter aria in Act I.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The first part of the opera is generally in good spirits... until Onegin flirts with Olga at Tatyana's name day ball. Once Lensky challenges Onegin to a duel, the tone becomes more sad and melancholic.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Lensky in Act II, when Olga keeps on dancing with Onegin and responding to his flirtations.
  • Crowd Song: Act I has a large one by the peasants' chorus, who present their harvest to Madame Larina.
  • The Dandy: Onegin.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Onegin definitely crosses this at the end of the opera.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: By the time Onegin realises he’s in love with Tatyana, she’s already married to Prince Gremin, and refuses to run away with him.
  • Downer Ending: Big time. Lensky is dead, Tatyana is married to someone else (whether she loves Gremin or not is unknown, although he's clearly devoted to her), and it’s highly unlikely that Onegin is going to live past thirty years.
  • Duel to the Death: Lensky and Onegin in Act II. It doesn’t end well for the both of them; Lensky is dead and Onegin is completely broken as a result.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Averted for the most part with Onegin. While not evil, Onegin is definitely a bit of a jerk, and he's a baritone role. Averted completely with Prince Gremin, a bass role, who deeply loves Tatyana and sings a whole aria about how she's brought joy into his life.
  • Gratuitous French: Monsieur Triquet, Tatyana's French tutor, sings some French when greeting her at her name day ball.
  • Happily Married: Prince Gremin’s aria seems to imply that he and Tatyana are very much in love; even if her feelings aren't quite as strong as his, she clearly cares for and respects her husband far too much to abandon him.
  • Happy Flashback: Roman Tikhomirov's 1958 Soviet film adaptation has a montage of these during Lensky and Onegin’s duet before their duel, as they both regret their actions and wish they could back out of it.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Lensky and Onegin were best friends.
  • The Ingenue: Tatyana in Act I is a complete romantic at heart who falls deeply in love with Onegin, and ends up extremely heartbroken when he rejects her letter. Several years later, when they meet again in Act III, Tatyana is now an elegant society lady married to Prince Gremin, and while she still loves Onegin, she refuses to leave her husband despite Onegin’s pleas.
  • Innocent Soprano: Tatiana, a soprano, starts her life as an innocent girl badly hit by Wrong Genre Savvy.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite Onegin's cold personality, he does care about Lensky quite a bit, and is extremely devastated at having to duel him.
  • Kill the Cutie: Lensky's death.
  • Lost Love Montage: Played with in Act III, when Tatyana and Onegin lament over how they could have been happy together.
  • Love Epiphany: Onegin realizes that he’s in love with Tatyana in Act III after meeting her at the ball in St. Petersburg.
  • Love Letter: Tatyana writes one to Onegin, and she even sings an aria while doing so.
  • Maid and Maiden: Filippyevna is the Maid to Tatyana's Maiden in Act I.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Onegin, since he's often sung by a "barihunk". See Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Mariusz Kwiecien, and Thomas Hampson's versions.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Onegin has this after ruining Lensky’s engagement and after shooting him dead.
  • Never My Fault: Despite encouraging Onegin's flirtations, Olga insists that she's not to blame when Lensky loses his temper at the ball and challenges Onegin to a duel in front of all the guests.
  • Not So Stoic: Acts II and III reveal that Onegin really isn’t all that stoic in the end.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Onegin and Lensky's friendship falls apart when Onegin repeatedly flirts with Lensky's fiancée during Tatyana's name day ball.
  • Proper Lady: Tatyana in Act III.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Lensky may be a romantic poet, but he's more passionate than Onegin, who is more masculine but more brooding as well. So he's the red oni to Onegin's blue oni. Played straight with Olga and Tatyana: Olga is the red oni while Tatyana is the blue oni.
  • Rejected Apology: Most productions will have Olga trying to apologize to Lensky in Act II, only for him to push her away after essentially saying that she may look like an angel, but she has the heart of a demon.
  • Scenery Porn: Traditional productions of the opera will have some very lovely sets of the Russian countryside and the St. Petersburg mansion.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Lensky is the good-hearted, sensitive poet while Onegin is the brooding, womanizing dandy.
  • Shipper on Deck: The guests at Tatyana’s name day ball really seem to support her and Onegin when they dance together.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: While Olga is carefree, spirited, and somewhat of a flirt, Tatyana is shy, bookish, and a dreamer.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Lensky and Olga are this in Act I, as Lensky sings a passionate aria where he declares his eternal love for her.
  • Smitten Teenage Girl: Tatyana in Act I. While she may not be a teenager, she's definitely young enough.
  • Snow Means Death: When Lensky sings his aria prior to the duel, it’s snowing. The snow continues to fall after Lensky is shot dead.
  • Tenor Boy: Vladimir Lensky fits the bill. He's young, romantic, a poet, and very passionate.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Some productions will have Onegin do this after killing Lensky.
  • Tragic Bromance: Lensky and Onegin, without a doubt.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Tatyana writes a love letter to Onegin, who doesn’t return her affections. Only after she marries Prince Gremin does Onegin realize his true feelings for her, but while Tatyana admits that she still loves Onegin, she ultimately stays with her husband.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Act II has Lensky publicly renouncing his friendship with Onegin, only for the both of them to regret it later on.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: There’s no mention of what happened to Olga after her fiancé was killed in the duel.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: