The Irony of Onegin


Although, for almost 140 years this piece has never disappeared from the repertoire for a long time. Presented for the first time in 1881, Onegin withstood ten more productions and one revival, was premiered in Moscow, Kuibyshev and New York.
Stage director Yevgeny Arye has been invited to create a new production of Onegin. This is his second performance for the Bolshoi Theatre and he is working on it with the production team formed during the staging of Weinberg’s The Idiot (it was premiered in 2017 and successfully goes on the New Stage to this day).

Yevgeny Arye:

I want to give a gift for the audience and the theatre by releasing a traditional, but at the same time modern performance on the Historic Stage. Actually, I perceive Pushkin as my contemporary. Rereading Eugene Onegin, I am always amazed by how he maintains a dialogue with readers: such a direct conversation with the audience is practiced in theatres only the last 30-40 years! I guess Tchaikovsky was also enthralled with the poetry of Eugene Onegin’s world. It is very important to preserve the sincerity and freshness of this opera. But there is another precious thing to me — it is absolutely wonderful Pushkin’s irony, which I would like to translate into my performance.

Together with set designer Simon Pastukh we find it crucial that this story begins in the village. We place a huge meadow on stage, stretching into the endless distance, as a symbol of the Russian expanse, its special air. Chickens, geese are grazing in this meadow... (I explicitly said to set designer that geese were absolutely essential!). I would like the rural world to be "warm" — after all it was admired by both Pushkin and Tchaikovsky. At the same time this is Tatiana’s world too. The world of the stories that nanny told her, just like Pushkin’s nanny did. So I thought that the Geese, the Goat, the Bear could be part of her world, and I'm trying to make that happen.

Prince Gremin’s ball takes us to a completely different space; we get inspired by Rene Magritte. This world is strange, unreal, I would say "frozen". And the people who inhabit it are motionless. The whole scenography here is completely different, cold.

However, for me all the characters in this story are real people, no matter what costumes they wear.

Onegin. Photo by Damir Yusupov.jpg
Anna Nechaeva (Tatiana), Pyotr Migunov (Prince Gremin).
Photo by Damir Yusupov.

Tatiana is like a stranger in her family. You never know what is happening to her. Even nanny says to her: «You’re not ill, are you?» Why is she given such attention? She’s different, wise, understanding. Distance from books she reads to the reality is huge, but she has passed it so quickly! At the ball we see another person, the star. This dramatic change shocks Onegin.

By the way, he is not Byronic hero at all. It makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, when Onegin is played as a certain Childe Harold. Because that’s not what Pushkin meant. I see a void in him. Now, modern young man quite often cannot be alone, he hasn’t enough impressions. And Onegin is the same. I don't see anything fatal or disgusting about him. I have nothing to expose him for.

Lensky is a man of extremes – if friendship, then the Holy friendship, if love, then love forever. He is a man of explosive energy, I highlight it in a scene of a quarrel between him and Onegin: the latter just joked with Lensky, in fact he didn’t want a duel. The tragedy comes quite unexpectedly – a terrible absurdity that breaks the whole story…

Since the time of Tchaikovsky, the theatre has changed a lot, but most importantly, the audience has changed. I want the viewers to engage with the action, to follow it. I do appreciate today’s musical theatre when I see that singers exist on stage absolutely as dramatic actors while singing. Sometimes there is an amazing explosive effect in this connection, which I — as a director — want to proceed…

The premiere performances will be held on 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 (14:00) May.
The main roles will be performed by the leading and guest soloists of the Bolshoi Opera.