09 March

Welcoming remarks by Ambassador Anatoly Antonov at the celebration of “Eugene Onegin” opera premiere


Dear ladies and gentlemen,

I am glad to greet all admirers of Russian culture at this wonderful evening. I would like to thank everyone who participated in its organization. Chairs of today’s reception: Susan Carmel and the Honorable Selwa Roosevelt, President of Kennedy Center Deborah Rutter and Washington National Opera leaders – Tim O’Leary, Ellen Berelson, Francesca Zambello. Your loving attitude to the achievements of our culture and arts means a lot to us. And of course, we are proud to see in the lead roles of this production Bolshoi Theatre stars – Anna Nechaeva, Elena Zaremba, Alexey Dolgov, Igor Golovatenko. I congratulate you all with a wonderful staging of one of the most outstanding operas in the world!
History knows few examples when both a literary work and its musical interpretation have become world-renowned masterpieces perfectly complementing each other. Such is the case with“Eugene Onegin”. Created by the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, this novel can be considered as a true encyclopedia of the Russian life and an educational foundation for many generations of Russians. It gives me a particular pleasure to note that June 6, 2019, will mark the 220th anniversary of Alexander Pushkin. So, this opera production may be regarded as a gift to commemorate our classic.
Another Russian genius that ranks equally with Alexander Pushkin is composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. His ballets, operas, symphonies are well-known all over the world. “Eugene Onegin” was of special importance to Tchaikovsky. Being a big admirer of Pushkin’s works, he, at first, considered touching this “holy book” as insolence. And when the composer eventually finished the opera, he doubted its success on the theatrical stage. But the fate of the opera turned out to be a tremendous success – the composer witnessed at least 16 productions, with the first one taking place exactly 140 years ago – in March 1879. “Eugene Onegin” won the hearts of audience in Russia and abroad, giving life to a new genre – lyric opera.
And today we have seen how Tchaikovsky’s favorite creation brought together people of different nationalities, views and beliefs. What can be better than Russians and Americans together on one stage, performing a Russian opera at the centre of the U.S. capital? I am convinced that we need as many of these projects as possible. Passion for music unites peoples of all countries. It is a good example how the great creative power of art erases dividing lines. 
I think that Dr. James Billington would agree with me if he were here with us. A few months ago our country lost a genuine friend, whom we will never forget. He made a lot to bring our nations closer to each other, to develop bilateral academic and inter-librarian exchanges, to promote the studies of Russian culture and history. His achievements were marked by state awards of the Russian Federation. 
I hope that the legacy of this great man will be preserved and continued on both sides of the Ocean. 
Thank you for your attention. 

March 9, 2019, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts