Eugene Onegin, an opera composed by Tchaikovsky and presented by the Oxford Alternative Orchestra, is adapted from Pushkin’s novel of the same name. It tells the story of a dandy who later comes to regret his rejection of a young woman’s love, and his fatal duel with his best friend, which is incited out of momentary jealousy.
The performance starts with a melancholy tune given off by a combination of violins, cellos and flutes; this accompanies the Larina daughters, Tatiana and Olga, making their entry onto the stage, singing love songs on the country estate. However, the music gradually turns merry as a group of peasants arrive announcing the completion of the harvest. The scene gets even more exciting as the estate’s routine is disrupted by the arrival of two guests, Olga’s fiancé and his friend Onegin. The transition from calm country life to the hustle and bustle of welcoming newcomers is perfectly illustrated by the parallel transition in music.
The two most important characters in the opera, Onegin and Tatiana, are brought to life by the excellent performance of their singers. Jack Holton (baritone), brings out the inner struggles of an Onegin who revels in frequent balls and social gatherings, passionately defends his honour by duelling his friend, and eventually helplessly succumbs to a love he once rejected. Alexandria Wreggelsworth (soprano), vividly demonstrates the overflowing of Tatiana’s emotions in the letter scene, yet by the end of the opera presents us with a haughty and refined noblewoman who knows to control her feelings and overcome her passion. The minimalism of the sets and costumes in the St John’s auditorium should also be noted, which served to intensify the inner emotions of the characters and focus the audience’s attention.
Overall, despite the familiar themes of love, ennui, life, death and social status in 19th century Russia, the opera Eugene Onegin is a series of lyric scenes whose real focus is on the examination of human psychology. The protagonist Onegin represents the extremes of human emotion, as he progresses from callous to passionate lover; while Tatiana transforms from naive and sentimental country girl to sophisticated society lady. The whole performance is a huge success owing to the quality of the singers and dedication of the orchestra, as well as the perfect costumes and setting.