Nadezhda von Meck was Tchaikovsky's sponsor, helping him leave Moscow Conservatory to compose full time. In late spring of 1878, Tchaikovsky offered to send von Meck sketches of Eugene Onegin. He felt this was his most fluently written work, easy to read, with few corrections.
Confiding in Taneyev, Tchaikovsky feared Eugene Onegin would not be a success. Disillusioned with theaters for giving pointless performances, retaining inadequate artists and giving no chance to younger artists, he wanted his 'lyric scenes' performed in an intimate Conservatory setting.
In June of 1878, Pyotr wrote to his brother Modest that he played through entire Eugene Onegin, and confided that the total audience of one was moved to tears and paid a thousand compliments to the composer. He hoped future audiences would feel the same way as the composer.
Commenting on composer/pianist Sergei Taneyev's mistaken remark, Tchaikovsky explains that Tatyana falls in love with Onegin instantly. Before Onegin even appears on the scene, Tatyana is in love with her ideal of a romantic hero, instilling these qualities into Onegin at first sight.
Nikolai Rubinstein was quite curious about Eugene Onegin. He asked Tchaikovsky to assign parts even if later they are to be changed. In the fall of 1877, with great anticipation of Rubinstein opinion, Pyotr sent selections most dear to him -- the quartet, Lensky's Arioso, scene in Tatyana's room and chorus of maidens.
Writing to Nadezhda von Meck in the fall of 1880, Tchaikovsky was excited to announce that Eugene Onegin is to be produced at the Moscow Opera House. This important event should prove whether the work will become a worthy part of operatic repertoire.
Pyotr Tchaikovsky was enthusiastic about sending the first act of Eugene Onegin to Nikolai Rubinstein, a friend and a man who hired Pyotr to teach harmony at the Moscow Conservatory. Pyotr believed a Conservatory setting and a modest theater was most suitable for a performance.
... Pyotr Tchaikovsky recalled Lavrovsky's suggestion. Suddenly, Eugene Onegin the opera became a captivating idea. He spent a sleepless night sketching the opera to Aleksandr Pushkin's text
In spring of 1877, Tchaikovsky wrote about a visit to Madame Lavrovsky, a celebrated singer and conservatory teacher. Their conversation lead to opera libretti. Unnamed person 'talked a lot of rubbish' offering 'appalling suggestions.' Mme Lavrovsky didn't talk, just laughed, and then suggested: 'What about Eugene Onegin?'
Apparently, Modest Tchaikovsky, composer's brother, criticized Onegin for potentially lack of scenic effect and action. This annoyed Pyotr, but he didn't care. He was immersed in the opera, in love with Tatyana's image, and enchanted by Pushkin's verse.
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Russian Opera Workshop