Eugene Onegin

Film, TV, Radio or theatrical adaptations

Opera

The 1879 opera Eugene Onegin, by Tchaikovsky, based on the story, is perhaps the version that most people are familiar with. There are many recordings of the score, and it is one of the most commonly performed operas in the world.

Ballet

John Cranko choreographed a three-act ballet using Tchaikovsky's music in an arrangement by Kurt-Heinz Stolze. However, Stolze did not use any music from Tchaikovsky’s opera of the same name. Instead, he orchestrated some little-known piano works by Tchaikovsky such as The Seasons, along with themes from the opera Cherevichki[21] and the latter part of the symphonic fantasia Francesca da Rimini.[22]

Choreographer Boris Eifman staged a modern rendition of Eugene Onegin as a ballet taking place in modern Moscow. The ballet was performed by Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg, with music by Alexander Sitkovetsky and with excerpts from Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin.[23][24]

Most recently Lera Auerbach created a ballet score titled Tatiana, with a libretto written by John Neumeier for his choreographic interpretation and staging of Alexander Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, for a co-production by the Hamburg State Opera and the Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theatre in Moscow.[25]

Incidental music

A staged version was adapted by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky and slated for production in the Soviet Union in 1936, directed by Alexander Tairov and with incidental music by Sergei Prokofiev, as part of the centennial celebration of Pushkin's death. However, due to threats of Stalinist repercussions for artistic liberties taken during the production and artistic differences between Tairov and Krzhizhanovsky, rehearsals were abandoned and the production was never put on.[26]

Play

Christopher Webber's play Tatyana was written for Nottingham Playhouse in 1989. It successfully combines spoken dialogue and narration from the novel, with music arranged from Tchaikovsky's operatic score, and incorporates some striking theatrical sequences inspired by Tatyana's dreams in the original. The title role was played by Josie Lawrence, and the director was Pip Broughton.

In 2016, the legendary Vakhtangov State Academic Theatre of Russia put on a production of Onegin starring Sergei Makovetsky, described as "exuberant, indelible, and arrestingly beautiful" by the New York Times.

Musical

Opening in 2016 for its world premiere, the Arts Club Theatre Company in Vancouver, Canada, staged a musical version called Onegin by Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille. Rather than being based solely on Pushkin’s verse narrative, the musical takes equal inspiration from Tchaikovsky’s opera,[27] subtly incorporating musical motifs from the opera and even using its structure as a template.[28] In fact, it was Gladstone’s time as assistant director for Vancouver Opera’s last production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin that opened his eyes to the story’s potential for musical adaptation.[29][30]

However, the overall musical style of Gladstone and Hille’s Onegin is distinctly non-operatic, being instead “an indie-rock musical with a modern flair”[31] that carries over into the costumes and the interactive staging,[32] as well as the ironic and self-referential humour and the titular character’s “bored hipster persona”.[33]

After opening to general acclaim in 2016, Onegin took home a historic 10 Jessie Awards, winning all but one award in its category, including the awards for outstanding production, direction (Gladstone), original composition (Gladstone and Hille), lead actor (Alessandro Juliani as Onegin), lead actress (Meg Roe as Tatyana), and supporting actor (Josh Epstein as Lensky).[34]

Since then, throughout new productions and casting changes, Onegin has garnered generally favourable reviews; for example, Louis B. Hobson of The Calgary Herald writes, “Onegin is not just good, but totally enthralling and deserves all the hype and all the awards it received in Vancouver back in 2016 when it premiered and again in 2017 during its return visit”.[35] Nevertheless, others have criticized the show for artificiality of characterization and “inconsistent dramaturgy”,[36][37] claiming that Onegin fails to “come to life”.[38]

Furthermore, several critics have pointed out similarities to the smash hit Hamilton and especially to Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, a sung-through musical likewise inspired by a classic of Russian literature (in this case, a sliver of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace), usually to Onegin’s disadvantage.[39]

Film

  • In 1911, the first screen version of the novel was filmed: the Russian silent film Yevgeni Onegin ("Eugene Onegin"), directed by Vasily Goncharov and starring Arseniy Bibikov, Petr Birjukov, and Pyotr Chardynin.
  • In 1919, a silent film Eugen Onegin, based on the novel, was produced in Germany. The film was directed by Alfred Halm, and starred Frederic Zelnik as Onegin.
  • In 1958, Lenfilm produced a TV film Eugene Onegin, which was not in fact a screen version of the novel, but a screen version of the opera Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky. The film was directed by Roman Tikhomirov and starred Vadim Medvedev as Onegin, Ariadna Shengelaya as Tatyana, and Igor Ozerov as Lensky. The principal solo parts were performed by notable opera singers of the Bolshoi Theatre. The film was well received by critics and viewers.
  • In 1972, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) produced a music film Eugen Onegin.
  • In 1988, Decca/Channel 4 produced a film adaptation of Tchaikovsky's opera, directed by Petr Weigl. Sir Georg Solti acted as the conductor, while the cast featured Michal Dočolomanský as Onegin and Magdaléna Vášáryová as Tatyana. One major difference from the novel is the duel: Onegin is presented as deliberately shooting to kill Lensky and is unrepentant at the end.
  • In 1994, the TV film Yevgeny Onyegin was produced, directed by Humphrey Burton and starring Wojtek Drabowicz as Onyegin.
  • The 1999 film, Onegin, is an English adaptation of Pushkin's work, directed by Martha Fiennes, and starring Ralph Fiennes as Onegin, Liv Tyler as Tatyana, and Toby Stephens as Lensky. The film compresses the events of the novel somewhat: for example, the name day celebrations take place on the same day as Onegin's speech to Tatyana. The 1999 film, much like the 1988 film, also gives the impression that during the duel sequence Onegin deliberately shoots to kill. This screen version was also criticized for a number of mistakes and inconsistencies.

Radio

In 2017, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a five-part adaptation by Duncan Macmillan, directed by Abigail le Fleming, as part of their 15-Minute Drama series, with Geoffrey Streatfeild as Pushkin, David Dawson as Onegin, Zoë Tapper as Natalya, Alix Wilton Regan as Tatyana, Joshua McGuire as Lensky, and Sean Murray as Zaretsky.

Audiobook

In 2012, Stephen Fry recorded an audiobook of the novel in the translation by James E. Falen.


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