EUGENE ONEGIN - SYNOPSIS
Scene 1—Madame Larina and the old nurse Filipyevna are making fruit preserves. Inside the house, the Larin daughters, Tatyana and Olga, are singing an old ballad. Farm workers arrive with a decorated sheaf, and their singing of a folk tune sends Tatyana’s thoughts far away, but Olga asserts it merely makes her want to dance. Tatyana settles herself to read a romantic novel, and when her mother gently exhorts her to remember there are no heroes in real life, she attributes her sad looks to the events of the story. Olga’s fiancé, Lensky, arrives with Onegin, a friend from St. Petersburg. Onegin is surprised that Lensky should have chosen the superficial Olga for a wife but holds his peace and turns his attention to the more enigmatic Tatyana. Tatyana, for her part, sees Onegin as the man of her dreams. The merry Olga notices this with some sisterly concern but moves off with Lensky. Onegin is condescending about country life, but has deeply impressed Tatyana, as her old nurse observes.
Scene 2—Filipyevna is helping her young mistress prepare for bed. The restless Tatyana begs for stories of Filipyevna’s youth, but then confesses that she has fallen in love. When the nurse leaves, Tatyana pours out her feelings in a passionate letter to Onegin, declaring eternal love for him. Dawn is breaking as Tatyana finishes her letter, and Filipyevna is startled to find her awake and dressed. Tatyana gives her the letter to deliver to Onegin.
Scene 3—Servants are gathering fruit in the garden. Tatyana enters in some confusion at the prospect of a meeting arranged with Onegin. When he arrives, he acknowledges receiving her letter and explains kindly but rather patronizingly that he was touched by it and admired its candor. But he adds that he has no intention of marrying, could not conceivably be her lover, and can offer no more than brotherly affection.
Scene 1—At Tatyana’s birthday ball, Onegin dances with her but is bored, and then, to frustrate gossip about his relationship to Tatyana, dances with Olga. Lensky, who had brought Onegin with him, feels betrayed by what he regards as Onegin’s flirtation with Olga. When Onegin laughingly and off-handedly persists in dancing again with Olga, Lensky’s jealousy flares and soon the men are quarreling in earnest. Lensky challenges Onegin to a duel, and Onegin realizes that he has gone too far.
Scene 2—Lensky gloomily awaits his opponent and broods over the love he feels for Olga. Onegin arrives. Both regret their quarrel, but the conventions of the duel bind them to their commitment. Lensky is killed.
Scene 1—Guests are dancing a polonaise. Onegin, just back from lengthy travels abroad, is bored, unhappy, and remorseful. The death of Lensky lies heavy on his heart. He has no wife to cherish, and the glittering ball seems to symbolize the emptiness and aimlessness of his life. Prince Gremin, a retired general, arrives and Onegin, with shock and bewilderment, recognizes the Princess Gremina as Tatyana; transformed, matured, a vision of dignity and grace. The Prince, who in fact is related to Onegin, tells him he married Tatyana two years ago and that his life has been transformed and redeemed by the love of this beautiful woman, and by the revelation that virtue and goodness can illuminate the existence of even an unattractive fellow like himself. Tatyana and Onegin are formal with each other, but when Tatyana’s defense weakens so far as to make her plead tiredness and ask to be taken home, Onegin is distressed to realize he has fallen inopportunely but deeply in love with her.
Scene 2—Tatyana, profoundly unsettled by Onegin’s reappearance, is awaiting him. He arrives and falls at her feet. She reminds him that he once rejected her, and tells him that because of her marriage, and despite a love for him, she will not yield to him now. It is her clear duty to leave him immediately and forever. Onegin is left alone in misery and despair.