All Senses Explode in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

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A friend from Boston invited me to see the Russian opera Eugene Onegin by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky with him at the San Francisco Opera while he was in town recently.

I’ve never been “passionate” about opera, but being addicted to the effect music has on me, it was only a matter of time. I’ve always thought Italian operas were often just too dramatic…..as if Onegin and Tatyana didn’t have me on the edge of my seat with their brutal honesty and passion.

It brought me back to my own dramatic, yet quiet days of living in Turkey with my ex-husband Michael. This was when I easily recognized and remembered MLK Jr.’s quote:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

So easy for me then, so difficult today. At least at the moment.

Michael and I lived in the small town of Selcuk, where we sold Turkish and other ‘Eastern’ carpets by day, and drank strong dark coffee with far too much sugar and played backgammon at bistros down narrow alleys at night. I always wore my hair in a scarf — not bound by anything — and Michael always wore those quilted patched trousers we bought at some market in Berlin years before.

Every night, the neighbors would play The Three Tenors starting from about 4 in the afternoon until close to 2 in the morning. Pavarotti’s powerful voice flowed through their speakers and echoed into the night, across the town’s streets, through our bedroom window, positively engulfing our bodies until we both fell into a deep sleep.

Our life was filled with a daily dose of opera.

I was brought back there by Onegin’s voice and Tchaikovsky’s words, the first that hit a chord was ‘on habit.’ He sings, she sings – “Habit is a gift from heaven; a substitute for happiness.”

Oh the struggle of those words. Really Tchaikovsky? A gift from heaven. Help me with this one. Strangle me habit and yet I long for you today. Just for a moment perhaps?

Their recap of the story: Lensky woos Olga while her sister, Tatyana, falls for the aloof Onegin. Tatyana writes an effusive letter expressing her devotion but Onegin coolly rebuffs her. Many years later Onegin reencounters Tatyana, now the wife of a prince, but their opportunity for love has irretrievably passed.

My recap is quite different. More dramatic? Perhaps, but its where this opera took me. Note, I saw this several years ago in San Francisco and it was originally posted on my personal blog – reposted here. Photo credit:  deannazibello.com.

My Experience: Tatyana falls in love with clueless arrogant Onegin, who’s a player, a gamber, and a man who understands little about empathy and friendship.Yet, as women, we’ve all been there….sitting on the bed reflective….and in love with the smooth romantic ‘we can’t quite trust.’We want to write to him, share with him, give him everything we have. We’re vulnerable, romantic, sweet, loyal, loving — and we can’t understand nor do we care where it comes from.

She says to her nanny on one restless night “I want to hear about the old days.” Nanny replies. “I used to know some old legends but I’ve forgotten them.”

Oh god, nanny. I sat there thinking – recapture those memories, those moments that you ‘must’ pass on to Tatyana. But for nanny, she married her dear Vanya because it was ‘gods will.’

And then this line comes as Tatyana dramatically throws open the shutters to her bedroom window: “I may perish but first I shall summon unknown bliss.”

Then that moment all women have had. I think.

She writes a love letter to Onegin. All of her thoughts, all of her emotions. The whole damn thing…..all of it…..on paper, using a pen and bottle of ink. She says, “Dispel my doubts. Protect me.” And then, after she sends off her letter to Onegin via nanny, she buries her head in her hands. Ashamed? Frightened? Free? All of them I’m afraid. All of them.

He enters her garden and humiliates her with her senseless childlike innocence and gives her this to think about as he walks off:

“A girl can replace one dream with another.”

Of course we can dear man. We can turn our passions on and off like we do the end of one orgasm and the beginning of another. And it means absolutely nothing to us. Thank god at least for our multiple organisms.

Oh dear Onegin, you have such deep insight into the working of the female mind.

Yet, she still loves him, even after a fued between Onegin and his friend Vladimir at a holiday banquet where Onegin tries to woo away Vladimir’s Olga. Jealous, crushed and wounded, Vladimir sings to nanny and to the audience, referring to his life in her home as a boy – “My childhood unfolded like a golden dream.” Ah, yes beautiful flowing words from the man who doesn’t deserve to die as we witness later when the tale unfolds. This golden dream he speaks of – the magical glitter of childhood we return to whenever time and imagination allows.

I go there often these days.

Onegin continues to sing and I start to cry. It’s hard to believe that an opera would move me to tears.
“Where have you gone golden days of my youth? What will today bring, I do not know. The future is shrouded in darkness. The day, with its cares is blessed and so is the darkness.”

I wipe the tears. Amazing where music can take you. Try to go there as often as possible.

Renee Blodgett
Founder
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
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