Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Reaching the end of the line: Vikram Seth's Golden Gate and A Suitable Boy

Vikram Seth© 1990 Aradhana Seth
The Golden Gate
After Eugene Onegin, I turned to Vikram Seth's novel in verse The Golden Gate (Random House, 1986), which is written entirely in the form of Onegin stanzas. And I mean entirely, from the dedication and table of contents to the "About the Author" note.

It's an astonishing homage from one writer to another, and an amazing performance in its own right. The Golden Gate's stanzas are fluid, witty, and follow the intricate Pushkinian rhyme scheme (see Pushkin's Eugene Onegin) while rarely landing with a thud on an obvious rhyme or stretching too far for a groan-worthy one, unless it's with an implied wink to the reader. (Seth does display a Nabokovian love of puns and wordplay, which he—just—manages not to overdo.)

The book is also filled with the texture of everyday life, or at least everyday life as experienced by highly educated young professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-1980s. (Seth attended Stanford, where he studied economics and creative writing, so he was obviously drawing on some first-hand experience.) References abound to real-life bars, radio stations, streets, places, events, and political issues: several of the characters participate in an anti-nuclear weapons demonstration at "Lungless Labs" (a thinly veiled allusion to Livermore National Laboratory, where atomic weapons are designed and where a series of nonviolent blockades took place in the early 1980s). So Bay Area readers (or, at least, Bay Area readers of a certain age) will regularly experience a little frisson of recognition.

Those who have previously read Eugene Onegin will also experience that frisson, and not just because of The Golden Gate's verse form. The main character in Seth's cast is John, whose description is very Onegin-like:
Gray-eyed, blond-haired, aristocratic
In height, impatience, views, and face,
Discriminating though dogmatic,
Tender beneath a carapace
Of well-groomed tastes and tasteful grooming...

A passionate man, with equal parts of
Irritability and charm..." [1]
And like Onegin, John winds up in a serious quarrel with his best friend.

The book does so much so well and so cleverly that it feels a little churlish to complain that the romantic travails of its privileged characters simply aren't that compelling. John, in particular, seems (like Onegin) to almost wilfully destroy his own happiness, but utterly lacks Onegin's tragic dimension. Ultimately, despite its many virtues, The Golden Gate feels slighter than it should.

A Suitable Boy
There's nothing slight about Seth's next novel, A Suitable Boy (Harper Collins, 1993): it weighs in at nearly 1500 pages and close to 2 pounds (and that's the paperback edition). Set in northeastern India a few years after independence, it's the story of several families connected by marriage and friendship. It has more than two dozen characters, but its temporal scope is surprisingly limited: the action seems to take place over the course of a single year.

I have to confess that I'm writing about the book while I'm still immersed in it, so all of my judgments are necessarily preliminary and contingent. But it seems to me that so outsized a novel has to justify its length, as least if it wants me to be one of its enthusiastic readers. The reviewer's blurbs printed in the book compare A Suitable Boy to Dickens, Trollope, and Eliot. But while the novels of those writers are indeed lengthy, every scene (even most of Trollope's notorious hunting scenes) furthers the narrative or expands our sense of the characters. The events described at such great length and detail in Seth's novel instead often have the messiness, and one might say the pointlessness, of real life. Something happens, and then another thing happens, but it's not always clear why we are being told about it.

If such a multi-focal novel can be said to have main narratives, they are chiefly the college-age Lata Mehra's attempts to fend off her mother's endeavors to arrange her marriage to "a suitable boy," and the dissolute Maan Kapoor's unhappy love affair with the singer Saeeda Bai. Along the way we witness a demonstration that ends in violence, a rural hunt for wolves, a court case surrounding the Zamindari Abolition Act, and a stampede at a Pul Mela religious gathering (based on the 1954 Kumbh Mela tragedy). Many of these incidents seem to be included to provide Seth the opportunity to write set-pieces, rather than because the structure of the work demands them.

Of course, sprawling sagas don't need justification if the incidents are of sufficient interest and the writing doesn't tax our patience. But the writing in A Suitable Boy often feels slack, full of needless detail. At one point Haresh, one of Lata's suitors, invites her and her mother to his place for lunch, and for no discernable reason we are treated to the entire menu:
First there was tomato soup. Then fried fish for everyone except Mrs Rupa Mehra, who had vegetable cutlets. Then there was chicken curry and rice with fried brinjal and mango chutney (Mrs Rupa Mehra had a vegetable curry.) And finally there was caramel custard. [2]
Perhaps this recitation says something about the tastes, economic standing or cultural background of Haresh which is too subtle for me to understand. Or perhaps this is intended as a kind of cinematic montage, where the flat description of the succession of dishes emphasizes the void of conversational silence that surrounds them. Or perhaps it's meant to add some local flavor, as it were. But scenes like this one lead me to suspect that Seth simply didn't know what to leave out.

Seth's writing can also be surprisingly sloppy. Fifty pages in I came across this sentence: "But despite Professor Mishra's open-armed avuncularity, his Falstaffian bulk and charm, Pran detected something dangerous: his wife and two young sons were, so it seemed to him, afraid of their father." [3] If this wordy, awkward, and ambiguous sentence (Mishra isn't his wife's father, thankfully) was an isolated instance, it could be overlooked. But clunkers like this crop up regularly throughout the book. To take a few more examples at random:
"'No—no—I have to go—' Varun found his voice at last, and almost fled from the hall without even laying a bet on the next race." [4] Does "almost" refer to Varun's precipitate exit from the hall, and if so, does "almost fled" mean "did not flee"? Or does it refer to his betting, and if so, does "almost...without even laying a bet" mean that far from leaving hastily, he stopped to make a bet on the way out? Indeed, when he is spotted a few minutes later he is celebrating his winnings on the race, so he must have bet. So what is this sentence intended to mean?

"Lunch was presided over by Miss Mason, a desperately ugly and lifeless woman of forty-five...the lifelessness of Miss Mason succeeded in freezing most of the conversation." [5] I would imagine it might. Although "lacking in energy" is one of the meanings of "lifeless," when applied to persons the far more common meaning is that they are dead. Perhaps Seth was anticipating by a decade or so the rise of the zombie as a cultural referent; or perhaps he should have chosen another modifier.
"[The room] was full of heavy furniture...and at the far end of the room...hung an oil painting of an English country scene containing cows. Mrs Rupa Mehra thought of their edibility, and was upset." [6] Again, "their" is grammatically ambiguous: while of course it is intended to refer to the cows, it could also refer to the heavy furniture and oil paintings, which indeed aren't very appetizing.

"For today she had no wish at all to talk to Kiran or anyone—least of all to Mrs Rupa Mehra." [7] The character on whose thoughts we are eavesdropping is Lata Mehra, Mrs. Mehra's daughter— would she really mentally refer to her own mother by her full name and honorific?
These are all the sorts of minor errors and awkwardnesses that are easily committed in the heat of inspiration, but which rewriting, and the careful attentions of copy editors, should eliminate. But on the evidence of what wound up being printed, it seems that A Suitable Boy didn't get very many drafts or much copy editing.

My judgment is undoubtedly premature and unfair; after all, I've only read two-thirds of the book so far. And if I come to feel differently after completing it, I will happily modify these comments (watch this space!). But at page 1018, A Suitable Boy feels as though could have been a superb novel—worthy, perhaps, of the comparisons to Dickens, Trollope and Eliot—if only it were shorter.

And this is where my train of thought reaches the end of the line. Thanks for bearing with me on this journey from Tim Kreider to Vikram Seth via Nabokov, Pushkin and Tchaikovsky, but I can't pretend that all of what I experience or seek out is as carefully connected as this sequence suggests. It's great when it happens, but I also try to leave myself open to serendipitous discoveries or just the randomness of everyday life. While I've been writing this series, I've also been reading the novels of Javier Marías, watching the postwar films of Jean Renoir, listening to superb recital recordings by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Janet Baker, attending operas by Boito and Verdi, and anticipating the pleasures of Shuddh Desi Romance, Chennai Express, Phata Poster Nikla Hero and Ram-Leela. So have no fear: randomness will be reasserting itself with my very next post.

Last time: Eugene Onegin - The Duel 

Update 4 November 2013: The last third of A Suitable Boy confirms the mixed impressions made by its first part: we are treated to more lengthy digressive set pieces (Parliamentary debates, legal arguments, election speeches and a cricket match), underelaborated incidents, and clunky sentences ("The Chief Secretary's eyes drifted across his table" [8]; I hope he was able to recapture them before they flew out the window)—not to mention a preemptive self-comparison to Middlemarch.

At the wedding that (of course) concludes the novel, there are hints of a sequel: "'You too will marry a girl I choose,' said Mrs Rupa Mehra firmly to her younger son [although her daughter isn't marrying a girl she chose, so where does that "too" come from?...never mind.]...'A suitable girl, and no exceptions.'" [9] And indeed, it was recently announced that, having missed a June 2013 deadline for the delivery of the manuscript of A Suitable Girl to Penguin, Seth was negotiating a deal with another publisher. The novel is now expected to be published by Orion in the fall of 2016. Let's hope the additional time allows Seth and his editors the opportunity to avoid some of the faults of A Suitable Boy.

Other posts in the "Following a train of thought" series:
  1. Vikram Seth, The Golden Gate, Vintage Books, 1987, p. 5.
  2. Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy, HarperPerennial, 1994, p. 621.
  3. A Suitable Boy, p. 54.
  4. A Suitable Boy, p. 476.
  5. A Suitable Boy, p. 621.
  6. A Suitable Boy, p. 621.
  7. A Suitable Boy, p. 634.
  8. A Suitable Boy, p. 1053.
  9. A Suitable Boy, p. 1467.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Following a train of thought: Eugene Onegin - The Duel

Onegin and Lensky's duel, by Ilya Repin, 1899

The second of two scenes:

II. The Duel
A hotheaded young poet becomes enraged at an acquaintance's flirtatious attentions to his beloved, and challenges him to a duel. It's a famous scene from Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. But, as with Tatyana's letter, life came to tragically imitate art.

In 1831 the 32-year-old Pushkin had married the 18-year-old Natalya Goncharova, and the couple became fixtures in the fashionable life of St. Petersburg. Natalya was considered to be one of the most beautiful women in Russian society and had many admirers both before and after her marriage, including Tsar Nicholas I.

Natalya Pushkina, by A. P. Bryullov, 1832
One of those admirers was Georges d'Anthès, a dashing young cavalry officer just a few months older than Natalya. It was d'Anthès' attentions to his wife that Pushkin resented, and with good reason. In a January 1836 letter to his adoptive father (and rumored lover), Baron Jacob van Heeckeren, d'Anthès wrote of Natalya:
"...I am madly in love! Yes, madly, for I do not know which way to turn. I will not tell you her name, because letters can go astray, but remember the most delicious creature in Petersburg and you will know her name, and what is most horrible about my position is that she loves me too, and we cannot see each other, it has been impossible up to now, for the husband is revoltingly jealous...To love one another and only to be able to speak of this between two figures of a quadrille is terrible." [1]
Apart from d'Anthès own claims, is there any evidence that Natalya returned d'Anthès' feelings? Pushkin himself once remarked, "Il l'a troublée," which can be variously rendered; perhaps "he disconcerted her" or "he flustered her" would be fair approximations. We also have the diary of Mariya Mörder, a maid of honour to the Empress Alexandra. Mörder described d'Anthès as "astonishingly handsome"; she wrote of seeing d'Anthès and Natalya together at a ball in February 1836, "they were madly in love!...how happy they seemed at that moment!" [2]

Georges d'Anthès
If there was a mutually acknowledged attraction between the two, it would hardly be surprising. Like Tatyana's sister Olga in Eugene Onegin, Natalya was light-hearted, youthful and flirtatious; Pushkin was emotionally volatile, describing himself as "changeable, jealous, susceptible, violent and weak, all at the same time." [3] He was also unfaithful: perhaps one reason he was so furious at d'Anthès' pursuit of Natalya was that it held an unflattering mirror up to his own not-very-admirable behavior.

During the Shrovetide celebrations of mid-February 1836, d'Anthès attempted to go beyond dancing and flirting, and initiate an affair with Natalya (who by then was several months' pregnant, although her condition may have been concealed by her tight corsets and voluminous dresses). He wrote to Heeckeren that Natalya
"...refus[ed] to violate her duties for a man whom she loves and who adores her; she described her situation to me with such lack of constraint, asked my pardon with such naïvete, that I was really conquered and could not find a word to reply. If you know how she consoled me, for she knew I was suffocating and was in a terrible state, and when she said to me: 'I love you as I have never loved, but never ask more than my heart, for all the rest does not belong to me and I can only be happy in honouring all my duties, pity me and love me always as you do now, my love will be your recompense'; I tell you, I would have fallen at her feet to kiss them had I been alone." [4]
How much of this conversation indicates true feeling and how much is the conventional language of flirtation and the courtly cavalier servente tradition is difficult to say (and to our uncertainties we can add d'Anthès unreliability as a narrator). This scene does bear a striking resemblance, though, to a moment at the end of Eugene Onegin. After an absence of several years, Onegin returns to St. Petersburg; one night at a ball he sees Tatyana—no longer a lovestruck country girl, but now a regal, self-possessed lady of the court, married to a prince. In Pushkin's poem, Tatyana's husband is briefly mentioned as a "grand general," and has a few lines of dialogue; in the opera, Tchaikovsky amplifies the character, giving Prince Gremin a warm and tender aria in which he expresses his devotion to his wife.

Onegin is dazzled by the new Tatyana, and in an ironic reversal writes her a passionate letter. Receiving no response, he finds a way into her house:
          "...An emotion
of wild repentance and devotion
threw Eugene at her feet—..." [5]
Tatyana then reproves him:
          "...I beseech you, go;
I know your heart: it has a feeling
for honour, a straightforward pride.
I love you (what's the use to hide
behind deceit or double-dealing?)
but I've become another's wife—
and I'll be true to him, for life." [6]
Here is how Tchaikovsky rendered the scene. His Tatyana, because she is more vulnerable, more conflicted, and more anguished, and because she has a husband who loves her to distraction, is even more sympathetic; and, of course, the music adds another emotional dimension:

But life rarely has the satisfying finality of art. D'Anthès continued to pursue Natalya more or less openly as she returned to society in late summer after the birth of her daughter. Anonymous letters were soon circulated that implied that Pushkin had been cuckolded, and a duel was barely averted when d'Anthès agreed to marry Natalya's sister (!). Now Natalya's (and Pushkin's) brother-in-law, d'Anthès used his new familial proximity to intensify his campaign of seduction.

Finally, at a winter ball attended by all the court (including the Tsar), d'Anthès' overfamiliar behavior towards Natalya enraged Pushkin to such an extent that a duel became inevitable. It took place in the early evening of Wednesday, January 27, 1837. According to the rules agreed on by the seconds, cloaks were placed on the ground ten paces apart. The two men would begin twenty paces apart; at a signal, each man could advance up to where the cloak had been placed, and fire at any time. D'Anthès fired first, and Pushkin fell, mortally wounded. (He was able to raise himself on his left arm and shoot d'Anthès, wounding him in the arm and chest, but not fatally.) Pushkin died two days later.

Alexander Pushkin, by Vasily Tropinin, 1827
In Eugene Onegin Lensky and Onegin attend a ball held at the Larin's for Tatyana's name-day (January 25). In his boredom with and contempt for the rural society in which he finds himself, Onegin decides to revenge himself on both Tatyana and Lensky by monopolizing and openly flirting with Tatyana's sister Olga. Lensky and Olga have been sweethearts from childhood, and Lensky is infuriated by Onegin's deliberate affront and by Olga's flattered acquiescence.

A challenge is issued, and the poet meets the jaded man of fashion at dawn the next morning. As with the addition of Prince Gremin's aria, there is a telling difference between the opera and the novel. In Pushkin's original Lensky writes a poem in the predawn darkness full of romantic clichés. Onegin, although he feels some affection for Lensky, can't take either his poetic or his romantic aspirations entirely seriously, and neither, Pushkin signals us, should we.

In the opera, though, Lensky's poem becomes an aria of longing and foreboding; Tchaikovsky's sweeping music gives the moment quite a different weight than does Pushkin's irony:

Finally, the outcome of the duel seems eerily prescient of Pushkin's own death:

The video excerpts in this post are taken from the 2007 Metropolitan Opera production conducted by Valery Gergiev and featuring Renée Fleming as Tatyana, Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Onegin, and Ramon Vargas as Lensky. Robert Carsen's effectively spare production places the emphasis on the intimate drama between the characters, as Tchaikovsky desired. This production has been issued on DVD and is also available through Met Opera on Demand; it's strongly recommended.

On CD, the first choice by general consensus is the 1955 mono recording with Galina Vishnevskaya as Tatyana, Evgeny Belov as Onegin, and Sergei Lemeshev as Lensky, accompanied by the Bolshoi Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Boris Khaikin. I haven't heard it, but I am definitely going to seek it out.

Khaikin's conducting is praised as "nuanced" and "delicate." By all accounts on the other end of the emotional spectrum is the version conducted by James Levine in 1988. It features Mirella Freni as Tatyana, Thomas Allen as Onegin, Neil Shicoff as Lensky and Anne Sofie von Otter as Olga, accompanied by the Staatskapelle Dresden. Levine's lush, passionate approach is highly effective, and the cast is excellent (even if none of the principals is Russian); Shicoff is an especially ardent Lensky. It was this version that I happened across at a library sale this summer, and which inspired me to seek out Pushkin's brilliant novel in verse. T. J. Binyon's biography of Pushkin (Knopf, 2003) was an invaluable source for this post, and is fascinating in its own right.

Next time: Vikram Seth's Golden Gate and A Suitable Boy

Last time: Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin - The Letter


1. T. J. Binyon, Pushkin: A Biography, Knopf, 2003, pp. 502-503.
2. Binyon, pp. 503-504.
3. Binyon, pp. 245.
4. Binyon, pp. 504-505.
5. Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin, translated by Charles Johnston. Penguin, 1979, p. 228.
6. Eugene Onegin, p. 231.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Following a train of thought: Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin

Tchaikovsky in 1877
The first of two scenes:

I. The Letter
A young woman writes an impassioned letter to a man she has met only briefly, declaring her love for him and placing her fate in his hands.

But the woman's name isn't Tatyana Larina; it's Antonina Milyukova. And the man she is writing isn't Eugene Onegin, but the composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Antonina's letter arrived in mid-May 1877 at a critical point in Tchaikovsky's life. Eight months previously he had written to his brother Modest about his intention to get married in order to "eradicat[e] from myself my pernicious passions"—his homosexuality.[1]

While Antonina's first letter was lost or destroyed by Tchaikovsky almost immediately, her second and third letters, both dated May 16, still survive. In them she writes,
"I see that it's now time that I began to master my feelings, as you yourself told to me in your first letter. Although I cannot now see you, I console myself with the thought that you are in the same city as I am...[W]herever I may be, I shall not be able to forget you or lose my love for you. What I liked in you [when I first came to know you] I no longer find in any other man; indeed, in a word, I do not want to look at any other man after you....

"I am dying of longing, and I burn with a desire to see you, to sit with you and talk with you, though I fear that at first I shan't be in a state to utter a word...Farewell, my dear one...I cannot live without you...I implore you: come to me. If you knew how I suffer, then probably out of pity alone you would grant my request."[2]
It seems impossible that either Antonina or Tchaikovsky were unaware of the echoes of Eugene Onegin in this situation. From Tatyana's letter to Onegin:
"...if you've kept some faint impression
of pity for my wretched state,
you'll never leave me to my fate.
At first I thought it out of season
to speak; believe me: of my shame
you'd not so much as know the name,
if I'd possessed the slightest reason
to hope that even once a week
I might have seen you, heard you speak
on visits to us, and in greeting
I might have said a word, and then
thought day and night, and thought again
about one thing, till our next meeting...

Another!...no, another never
in all the world could take my heart!
Decreed in highest court forever...
heaven's will—for you I'm set apart...

Imagine it: quite on my own
I've no one here who comprehends me
and now a swooning mind attends me,
dumb I must perish, and alone.
My heart awaits you: you can turn it
to life and hope with just a glance—
or else disturb my mournful trance
with censure—I've done all to earn it!..."[3]
There are echoes as well of Onegin's response to Tatyana in Tchaikovsky's reply to Antonina. David Brown writes in his critical biography of the composer that Tchaikovsky apparently told her that her love for him would diminish if she really knew his imperfections and failings, and "had counselled his infatuated admirer not to let her feelings run away with her."[4] As Onegin tells Tatyana:
"...Should your perfections be expended
in vain on my unworthy soul?
Believe (as conscience is my warrant)
wedlock for us would be abhorrent...

You'll love again, but you must teach
your heart some self-restraint; for each
and every man won't understand it
as I have...learn from my belief
that inexperience leads to grief."[5]

Elizaveta Lavrovskaya
On May 25, shortly after receiving Antonina's first letter, Tchaikovsky visited the mezzo-soprano Elizaveta Lavrovskaya. The composer was casting around for a new opera project; Lavrovskaya suggested Eugene Onegin. Just a few days later Tchaikovsky reported to Modest that "the idea seemed to me wild, and I didn't reply. Afterwards, dining alone at an inn, I recalled Onegin, fell to thinking about it, next began to find Lavrovskaya's idea a possibility, then was carried away by it, and by the end of the meal had made up my mind." [6]

It was Tatyana's letter to Onegin that inspired Tchaikovsky to begin work on the opera, and it was this scene that was the first that he composed, using almost entirely (as he did throughout the opera) Pushkin's words. Tchaikovsky later wrote his friend, the composer Sergey Taneyev, that "I burned with the fire of inspiration when I wrote the letter scene"[7]:

That Tchaikovsky was inspired to compose this scene shortly after receiving Antonina's letter is surely no coincidence. And writing the scene made him view her in a new light:
"Being completely immersed in composition I so thoroughly identified myself with the image of Tatyana that she became for me a living person, together with everything that surrounded her. I loved Tatyana, and was furiously indignant with Onegin who seemed to me a cold, heartless fop. Having received a second letter from Miss Milyukova, I was ashamed, and even became indignant with myself for my attitude towards her...

"In my mind this all tied up with the idea of Tatyana, and it seemed to me that I myself had acted incomparably more basely than Onegin, and I became truly angry with myself for my heartless attitude towards this girl who was in love with me. Because the second letter also contained Miss Milyukova's address, I immediately set out thither, and thus began our acquaintance." [8]
Reader, he married her.

Tchaikovsky and Antonina after their wedding
The marriage, which took place on July 18, was a catastrophe from the first. Tchaikovsky had told Antonina that he could never love her, but despite her acquiescence to his conditions for their wedded life he quickly realized that he had made a terrible mistake. In a letter to his patroness Nadezha von Meck written three weeks after the wedding he described his growing anguish:
"As soon as the [marriage] ceremony was over, as soon as I found myself alone with my wife with the consciousness that it was now our fate to live with each other inseparably, I suddenly felt not only that she did not inspire me with even a simple feeling of friendship, but that she was hateful to me in the fullest sense of that word. It seemed to me that I, or at least the best, even the sole good part of the real me—that is, my musicality—had perished irrevocably...My wife was in no way guilty in my eyes: she had not invited herself into the bonds of matrimony. In consequence, to make her feel that I do not love her, that I look upon her as an intolerable encumbrance, would be both cruel and base. There remains pretence. But to pretend all one's life is the greatest of torments. And where in all this can one think of work? I fell in to deep despair, the more horrifying because there was no one who could sustain me or give me hope...

"[My wife] loves me sincerely, and wants nothing except that I should be calm and happy. I pity her greatly."[9]
Those feelings of pity and sympathy for women trapped in loveless marriages pervade the opera. In the very first of Eugene Onegin's "seven lyrical scenes in three acts" we learn that Tatyana's mother loved another man at the time of her marriage to Larin. Her new husband, perhaps sensing something of her feelings, took her away from the city to his country estate. She sings,
"I busied myself with the household,
became resigned and settled down...
Habit is sent us from above
in place of happiness."[10]
Tatyana is surrounded by women who have had to sacrifice their feelings on the marriage altar and replace happiness with habit and duty. In her distress on the sleepless night she decides to write to Onegin, Tatyana asks her nurse Filipyevna whether she has ever been in love. Filipyevna tells her the story of being married at age 13 to a boy she had never met, and the tears she wept as her maiden plait was untwined, she was taken to the church, and then into the household of a family of strangers.

Both stories, her mother's and her nurse's, foreshadow Tatyana's bitter fate. And as my loving partner noted, with its focus on the plight of its heroine, the opera could have been entitled Tatyana. There is only one scene that does not feature her, and that scene will be the subject of the second part of this post.

Next time: Eugene Onegin - The Duel

Last time: Pushkin's Eugene Onegin to Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin


[1]  As quoted in David Brown, Tchaikovsky: The Crisis Years (1874-1878). Gollancz, 1982, p. 104.
[2]  Brown, pp. 138-140.
[3]  Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin, translated by Charles Johnston. Penguin, 1979, pp. 100-102.
[4]  Brown, p. 138.
[5]  Eugene Onegin, pp. 113-114.
[6]  Brown, p. 142.
[7]  Isaiah Berlin, "Tchaikovsky, Pushkin and Onegin," Musical Times, v. 121, no. 1645 (March 1980), p. 166.
[8]  Brown, p. 143.
[9]  Brown, pp. 150-152.
[10] Dmitry Murashev, "DM's Opera Site: 'Eugene Onegin' by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky libretto (English)."