January 17, 2017 by AK
It is in some ways unfortunate that Tchaikovsky set Eugene Onegin to music, not Rossini, the composer of deep shallows. Pushkin, according to T.J. Binyon’s remarkable biography, became ‘addicted’ to Rossini while living in Odessa, where an Italian opera company was visiting…
Yes, Rossini – but there’s no way he would have done it… let’s just say he stopped composing operas in 1829 while Onegin was completed in the fall of 1830. Glinka would be a natural candidate but he was busy with Ruslan i Lyudmila until the early 1840s – based on Pushkin’s youthful poem – and then something went wrong and he stopped composing.
I suggest a different counterfactual. Suppose Tchaikovsky had abandoned Onegin early on and switched to another opera. An operatic treatment of the novel in verse would have to wait until the 20th century. Stravinsky then? A sequel to The Rake’s Progress? That was my first thought, but how could I ignore the author of War and Peace? Surely Prokofiev would have been there first. (I’m not even mentioning masters from other countries.) It could have been a failure, but a more satisfactory kind of failure than the success of Tchaikovsky’s opera.