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Subject: Re: Eugene Onegin (Not a good opera)
From: Rich Lowenthal <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Rich Lowenthal <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 22 Aug 2017 12:36:09 -0400
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Personally, I think that while it is debatable whether Onegin is a great opera, it takes some perversity to deny that it is "good." Tchaikovsky's operas are of a same piece as all his music--undeniably effective in performance, but with a degree of "heart-on-the-sleeve" sentimentality that for some keeps him from the pantheon of great composers. It is the same type of argument made over Puccini's works: whether an excess of sentiment can be incompatible with "great art." Personally, while I find his music both effective and affecting, I don't think it contains great depth; on repeated listenings, I don't find a lot more than on a first hearing. (One reason I find Solti the perfect interpreter, since the same can be said of many of his recordings). This doesn't mean I don't listen to Tchaikovsky on occasion, but perhaps without the care I might take with other composers. But that is my opinion, and I respect those who adore him.

The Saintsbury quote, by the way, refers to the Scottish writer John Gibson Lockhart, best known (not that he is known any more) for a biography of Walter Scott, his father-in-law. 



-----Original Message-----
From: Discussion of opera and related issues [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of robert bragdon
Sent: Tuesday, August 22, 2017 12:13 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Eugene Onegin (Not a good opera)

Eugene Onegin has always been one of my favorites. It very nicely passes the goose bump test. Some of my favorite moments in Symphony Hall have been Tchiakovsky symphonies.  Again it passes the goose bump test. If it be an over emotional listen to music so be it. Bob in New Hampshire.

On Aug 22, 2017 11:01 AM, "G. Paul Padillo" <[log in to unmask]>
wrote:

> GCR wrote:
>
> Paul Henry Lang wrote:
>
> "Eugene Onegin is not a good opera -- it is too pretty to be a good one.
> There are melodies galore and some really fine ones, but the 
> industrious sparkling of Tchaikovsky's music, and the eclectic and 
> unbalanced optimism of his operatic procedure ruffle any listener 
> alive to the graver and sterner elements of music drama. For want of a 
> stronger grasp of theatrical realities, despite all its sense of 
> beauty, Eugene Onegin misses a well-meant aim. Perhaps the most 
> curious shortcoming of this opera is its lack of true vocal concept. 
> This does not mean that the songs are not singable; they are very much 
> so, but most of them, such as Lenski's big aria before the duel, are 
> of the "Melody in F" variety -- general purpose elegant sob stuff, 
> just as good for solo cello. This opera reminds me of one of 
> Saintsbury's pithy remarks about some novelist whose name escapes me. 
> It can be paraphrased to read: "Tchaikovsky had every faculty for writing operas, except the faculty of opera writing."
>
> * * * * *
>
> What utter B.S.  Onegin is not only a “good” opera, I’d consider it a 
> great one, and a favorite of many.
>
> The above quote reminds me of the Brothers Crane in an episode of 
> “Frasier,” laughing like overeducated hyenas: “Remember when we 
> thought Tchaikovsky was a good composer?”  “Were we ever that young?”  
> For years it was something of a musical bloodsport to put down 
> Tchaikovsky, something I never understood.  His music was considered 
> to be too overwrought. Too beautiful, lacking ambition, carelessly 
> structured, and on and on.  Most of the time the comments came from 
> music critics with some unknowable ax to grind, or from composer For 
> years it was something of a musical bloodsport to put down 
> Tchaikovsky, something I never understood.  His music was considered 
> to be too overwrought. Too beautiful, lacking ambition, carelessly 
> structured, and on and on.  Most of the time the comments came from 
> music critics with some unknowable ax to grind, or from composer’s one 
> has never he heard of.
>
> Tchaikovsky captures the elements of Pushkin’s romance in an original, 
> and illustrative way, which encapsulates and intensifies the tale in a 
> way only music is capable of doing.  Here we have the awkwardness of 
> the beautiful young heroine whose journey is the center of Onegin, who 
> gets one of the most pivotal, grand scenes any composer ever gave his 
> leading lady.  We watch as she progresses from child into womanhood 
> and a place of honor and nobility.  With all that, the composer also 
> paints, as brief as it is, a thorough picture of the robust, flirty 
> and life-loving Olga, which makes her de denouncement by Lensky a 
> public embarrassment and we clasp her to our he hearts.
>
> There is the poet, whose temper, pride and wreckless  impetuousness 
> betrays his purported maturation.  It is a tragedy that changes the 
> lives of these young people in a way only a violent, senseless death 
> can.  If one is going to call Lenski’s “Kuda” aria “a melody in F” I 
> suppose that’s one’s privilege, but it is considered one of the great 
> romantic tenor arias for a reason, and if one can’t get it . . . well, 
> go ahead, why not make fun of an aria that approaches “Una furtive 
> lagrima” in popularity these days.
>
> The title character is a difficult one to pull off:  he’s almost 
> unlikeable, but when portrayed correctly - and it shows in the music 
> the composer gives him - we discover someone not so much cruel as he 
> is ust bored, suffering from a case of ennui that borders on 
> depression.  When he is finally cured of it, he (as we, the audience, 
> are already too well aware) it’s too late.
>
> there are the champions of the work, fellows with names like: Mahler, 
> Mi Mitropoulos, Belohlávek, Rostropovich, Jansons, Gergiev, Mackerras, 
> Ba Barenboim . . .
>
> If one doesn’t like Onegin, or think it’s a crummy opera, nothing I – 
> or anyone else – can say will likely sway that opinion, but it’s been 
> a popular work with singers, conductors, designers, companies and 
> audiences, and there’s a reason for that.  Actually, there’s a lot of 
> reasons.
>
> p. 
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