Eugene Onegin

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Tchaikovsky wrote Eugene Onegin in 1878, using a libretto by Konstantin Shilovsky and himself, based on the epic poem by Pushkin. The composer was first drawn to the project by the famous "letter scene" (Act One, Scene Two), in which Tatyana declares her affections for Onegin. Tchaikovsky provided music for this scene—at least the latter part of it—first and built the rest of the work around it, ultimately producing his most popular opera. If the libretto supplies many opportunities for dramatic scenes, Tchaikovsky's music certainly rises to almost every occasion. As Tatyana writes the letter, for instance, the music suggests her innocence, and seems to convey the act of writing, as well: the oboe singing an animated and typically Tchaikovskian motif, with the clarinet, flute, and horn providing subtle commentary, invokes a feeling of both intimacy and action, a private venting of one's thoughts and passions. Tatyana is given a beautiful and moving theme here, and the whole scene is set afire emotionally. Near the end a horn motif appears, which permeates much of the opera, serving as a sort of motto theme.

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