Letter Writing and Opera: Our Two Great Loves

Letter Writing and Opera

As the weather remains a bit miserable, we here at Scriptum are keeping our spirits up by focussing on the things we love. Today, we thought we would take a look at the intersection between two of our greatest loves: opera, and letter writing. The two have an incredibly special place in our hearts, of course, but also have a very interesting relationship themselves, and we want to share some of the highlights of that today.

 Eugene Onegin - Tchaikovsky

No discussion of opera and letters could be possibly be considered complete without talking about Tchaikovsky’s masterful Eugene Onegin. Premiered at the Male Theatre in 1879, it is an adaptation of Pushkin’s 1833 novel of the same name, following the eponymous hero and his troubled love life. The catalyst for much of the opera’s drama is a letter that Tatyana (who is in love with Onegin) writes in the first act. In it, she confesses her love for Onegin, and lays bare her feelings, only for him to nonchalantly reject her, which sets him on a dark path.

You can hear what an emotional event it is for Tatyana in this extract from the Metropolitan Opera’s 2013 staging of Tchaikovsky’s classic here.

Once Onegin realises his true feelings for Tatyana, he is overcome with regret at his previous rejection of her, and declares that he will write to her in turn to declare his true feelings. The question is, will she be able to forgive him for his initial snubbing of her affections? We don’t deal in spoilers here at Scriptum, so we will leave you to find out for yourself.

 Falstaff - Verdi

Taking a much lighter tone, our next opera is Verdi’s Falstaff. The final of the 28 operas he wrote, it premiered at La Scala in 1893, and follows the eponymous Sir John Falstaff in his calamitous efforts to seduce two married women, with the goal of taking over their husbands’ vast riches. After Falstaff’s initial letters of proposition to the two women, they catch on to his scheme, and they set about teaching him a lesson. A deluge of letters follows, ultimately leading to Falstaff getting his comeuppance in Windsor Forest. This scene in particular is incredible, as you can see here in this performance by Opera Colorado.

 Cyrano - David DiChiera

Now, for something a bit more modern, let’s look at David DiChiera’s 2007 opera Cyrano. It is, of course, based on Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac, and chronicles the trials and tribulations of the titular character. Cyrano is deeply in love with his distant cousin Roxane, but cannot confess his love for her due to his unusually large nose. Roxane is in love with a cadet called Christian, who in turn is in love with Roxane, and enlists Cyrano to help him woo her due to his lacking intellect.

Cyrano begins writing letters to Roxane on Christian’s behalf, and thus the two fall even more deeply in love. Just before Cyrano can reveal he is the author of the letters, Christian is fatally shot, and Roxane collapses in distress. The final act shows Cyrano mortally wounded, and asking Roxane if he can read Christian’s final letter to her. As he reads it aloud, Roxane realises it was he who wrote them all, though he denies it to the last. Inn the emotional denouement, Roxane tells Cyrano se loves him, just before he succumbs to his injuries. You can experience this gut wrenching moment from the Metropolitan’s staging of Cyrano here.

 In the mood to write a letter?

If our list has got you in the mood to write some letters, then we’ve got just the things for you. Whether it be to release a pent up confession of love, or to challenge your love rival to a duel, our letter writing sets can cater to all needs, and all budgets. Alternatively, our beautiful Opera Cards are the perfect way to wish someone well  or to commiserate, whilst keeping in mind what is truly important in life: gorgeous stationery and opera!

 Until next time Scriptum blog, stay safe and well x