A haughty St. Petersburg dandy, weary of vacuous parties and frivolous balls, descends into ennui in Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. Early on, the title character scorns the love of the introspective Tatyana, claiming domestic life would bore him; later he finds himself in a disastrous duel with his best friend. Years pass before Onegin recognizes his feelings for Tatyana, an ill-timed realization that makes him an anti-hero bereft of friendship or love. Written in iambic tetrameter, Pushkin’s “novel in verse” lends itself to musical adaptations. Tchaikovsky’s 1879 opera closely adhered to the poetry of the original.
When Dmitri Tcherniakov deviated from the classic in a 2006 restaging, filled with plot adjustments and reinvented scenes, he caused a stir in the opera world. In his version, he distilled the setting to two rooms—a provincial late 19th century dining room and a garish 1960s red dining room—bare backdrops that allow him to hone in on the characters’ neuroses. Despite his unconventional approach, many have lauded Tcherniakov’s Onegin as a truthful rendition that brings existential turmoil to the story’s surface. In a way, his unique production echoes Pushkin’s literary innovation, making Tcherniakov’s modern vision an unexpectedly fitting interpretation of the groundbreaking Russian work. The film (of an Opera Garnier performance) shows at 4 p.m. at the National Gallery of Art, 6th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 737-4215. nga.gov.