Tchaikovsky started his professional life as a civil servant, then went to study music at the St Petersburg Conservatory, and subsequently became a teacher at the same conservatory. By the summer of 1867 he had already written his first piano pieces and had them published.
In 1877, a rich admirer, Countess Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck, offered him the opportunity to devote his entire life to composing. For years they kept up a close correspondence, but Tchaikovsky never wanted to meet her.
In 1890 the countess put a stop to her financial support for unclear reasons. An unproven theory is that she could not come to terms with his sexual orientation.
Tchaikovsky travelled a lot, was bestowed with honour everywhere, but was a solitary and lonely person. He died of cholera in St. Petersburg at the age of 53. However, this cause of death was always doubted.
The rumour that he would have committed suicide by poisoning is very persistent. The theory that he committed suicide after being convicted by a 'honorary council' of former college friends on charges of (homosexual) behaviour that was not allowed to become public, has fervent supporters and deniers, and has also been incorporated into literary fiction.
His brother Modest, who published a biography about him, would have tried to keep the suicide a secret.
In addition to six symphonies, he wrote symphonic poems, ten operas (one of which he destroyed), piano works, string quartets, songs and violin music. Especially the First Piano Concerto, the Violin Concerto, the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Symphony, Overture 1812 and his ballet music (for example The Swan Lake and The Nutcracker) are often performed.
Tchaikovsky successfully combined influences from Western European classical music with Russian music. His musical preferences consisted of Mozart and Mendelssohn. His works are also loved because of the very melodic orchestration and the wealth of melodies. In a number of compositions Tchaikovsky incorporated the waltz in a special way, not just in his ballets, but also in his symphonies. His music was labelled as (too) Western by fellow countrymen of his time, in particular the nationalist-Russian composers of the Mogoetsjaja koetsjka (The Five).
Pocket Opera Jevgeni Onjegin
Tchaikovsky adapted Pushkin's novel into an opera. It is widely known that Tchaikovsky was homosexual, and there is a storyline in the opera that reflects this. In this opera, Tchaikovsky incorporates a poet who is friends with Yevgeni Onjegin. Their friendship or love results in a duel in which Yevgeni mortally injures his friend.
In this "pocket opera" the essence of Tchaikovsky's opera has been reduced to an intimate, immersive performance of one hour and 20 minutes. Director Kai Anne Schuhmacher puts the decisive moments in the lives of Tatyana and Olga under a magnifying glass and shows how a single decision in your youth can have dramatic consequences for the rest of your life.
Yevgeni Onjegin is a moving and profound psychological drama full of emotional conflicts with lyrical, passionate music. The most famous aria is the Letter Scene, in which Tatyana writes a desperate love letter to Onjegin.
The fate of Tatyana is central to this production. We see the story through the eyes of the older Tatyana, who looks back on her life and reflects on her decisions. In her old age she is alone, without a husband, in the company of her sister Olga. Olga was Tatyana's cheerful opposite in her younger years, but she is now - unlike Tatyana - a bitter and broken woman.
Tatyana can, however, look back with peace and acceptance to each of the doors that have opened for her because she can support her decisions in life. Even though, as a young girl, she was not yet aware of where the paths she has taken would lead her.
The artistic team in this production consists of the winners of the 2018 Travel Opera Concept Challenge, a competition of the Dutch National Touring Opera (Nederlandse Reisopera), especially for young theatre makers in the field of opera.
Jevgeni Onjegin by The Dutch National Touring Opera, Pocket version of 1 hour and 20 minutes, without a break. In theatres November 1-28, 2019, Sung in Russian with Dutch surtitle
Start: 20.00 or 20.30, see also reisopera.nl