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Deeply romantic with massive dance scenes, ‘Onegin’ will delight ‘Nutcracker’ fans. Michigan Opera Theatre

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Fans of Tchaikovsky classics like The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty will not want to miss the next production in the 2018-2019 season of Michigan Opera Theatre.

Eugene Onegin, based on Alexander Pushkin’s classic novel of the same name, features internationally acclaimed soprano Corinne Winters as the heroine Tatyana, and Iurii Samoilov makes his U.S. debut in the title role.

“If you love The Nutcracker, if you love Tchaikovsky, you would recognize the style, which I believe is far superior and lush,” said original director Tomer Zvulun. “He’s the master of melody. People walk out of his pieces humming the tunes.”

Onegin is a story of squandered romance and tragic honor that examines life and death, love and regret, passion and societal pressures. It is Tchaikovsky’s most beloved opera and the epitome of Russian lyric opera.

While the opera is better known than the book by American audiences, Pushkin is revered in Russian literature. Onegin, which introduced the literary theme of the superfluous man who doesn’t fit with the norms of his society and status, is one of his masterpieces. Pushkin was a Romanticist, and Tchaikovsky elevates the idea of romance to another level with his score.

“One of the things that struck us is the idea of the road not taken, and this idea that in life, we make choices all the time,” said Zvulun. “Every day we make another choice, and sometimes the choices that we make influence our future and the rest of our lives in a profound way. It’s such a romantic idea.”

While the opera is set in 1820s Russia, the themes and struggles faced by the characters remain relevant today.

“This idea is a very popular one, every character in Eugene Onegin is dealing with regret and is making choices that would have given them another existence if they had chosen a differently,” said Zvulun. “I think it’s a very human and universal theme for these characters.”

This production gives Onegin a deeply psychological twist. Instead of following the usual narrative, it’s told from the points of view of Tatyana and Onegin. “The cast is a critical part of it, and seeing Corinne Winters is going to be absolutely stunning for people,” said Zvulun. 

While not a full-on ballet, dance plays a crucial role in Onegin, and there are at least a couple of “massive” dance scenes with the chorus. And “what’s great about the music is it reveals things about the characters that words are never able to reveal,” adds Zvulun. There’s more, but you’ll have to be there to find out.

“There’s a lot of surprises in the production we’re not willing to reveal,” said Zvulun.

Plot Synopsis:

Set in 19th century Russia, the story revolves around Tatyana, one of two daughters of the widowed Madame Larina. A neighbor, the poet Lensky, is courting Tatyana’s sister, Olga. Lensky unexpectedly brings with him Eugene Onegin, and Tatyana falls in love.

Throughout the three acts, we see the impact of love, loss, regret and the pressures of society on these characters. Will Onegin and Tatyana find true love?

About the production:

Eugene Onegin (Yevgény Onégin) — an opera in three acts, with music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, libretto by the composer and Konstantin Shilovsky, and based on Alexander Pushkin’s novel in verse —  premiered in Moscow in 1879.

This co-production with Lyric Opera of Kansas City is conducted by Stephen Lord and directed by Stephanie Havey, with sets by Erhard Rom.

Sung in Russian with English supertitle translations
Running time: About 2 1/2 hours


If you go:

Eugene Onegin opens Saturday, October 13, at 7:30 p.m., with additional shows Wednesday, October 17, and Friday, October 19, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, October 21, at 2:30 p.m. at the Detroit Opera House. Single tickets are on sale now, and they can be purchased online, by calling 313-237-7464 or in person at the Detroit Opera House. Complete season information is also available.

Members of the editorial and news staff of The Detroit News were not involved in the creation of this content.

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