This is a magnificent achievement on all sides. The work comes to arresting life under Bychkov's vital direction.
This is a magnificent achievement on all sides. In a recording that is wider in range, more immediate than almost any I can recall, the work comes to arresting life under Bychkov's vital direction. Too often of late, on disc and in the theatre, the score has been treated self-indulgently and on too large a scale. Bychkov makes neither mistake, emphasizing the unity of its various scenes, never lingering at slower tempos than Tchaikovsky predicates, yet never moving too fast for his singers. Entirely at the service of Tchaikovsky's marvellous invention, he illuminates every detail of the composer's wondrousRead more scoring with pointed delicacy and draws playing of the utmost acuity and beauty from his own Paris orchestra enhanced by the clear, open recording. I cannot imagine a more captivating and idiomatic account of the piece, even if the Tchakarov runs it close in some respects, and excellent as is Tchakarov's chorus, the St Petersburg Choir is even better, superbly disciplined, alert with their words.
Focile and Hvorostovsky prove almost ideal interpreters of the central roles. Having heard Focile as Nannetta in Stein's famous Welsh National Falstaff I hadn't expected that she would be a suitable candidate for Tatyana either vocally or emotionally. So much for preconceptions: she offers keen-edged yet warm tone and total immersion in Tatyana's character. Aware throughout of the part's dynamic demands, she phrases with complete confidence, eagerly catching the girl's dreamy vulnerability and heightened imagination in the Letter scene, which has that sense of awakened love so essential to it. Then she exhibits Tatyana's new-found dignity on Gremin's arm and finally her desperation when Onegin reappears to rekindle her romantic feelings. Her voice may not have the richer overtones of Tomowa-Sintow (Tchakarov), but she is more capable of indicating Tatyana's palpitating youthfulness, missing only something of the sheerly Russian quality in the young Vishnevskaya's classic reading (Khaikin).
Hvorostovsky, rather cool and uninvolved in the Philips Traviata (see below), is here wholly in his element. His singing has at once the warmth, elegance and refinement Tchaikovsky demands from his anti-hero. He suggests all Onegin's initial disdain, phrasing his address to the distraught and humiliated Tatyana—Focile so touching here—with distinction, and brings to it just the correct bon ton, a kind of detached humanity. He fires to anger with a touch of the heroic in his tone when challenged by Lensky, becomes transformed and single-minded when he catches sight of the 'new' Tatyana at the St Petersburg Ball. Together he, Focile and Bychkov make the finale the tragic climax it should be: indeed I found this passage almost unbearably moving in this reading.
Shicoff has refined and expanded his Lensky since he recorded it for Levine. His somewhat lachrymose delivery suits the character of the lovelorn poet, and he gives his big aria a sensitive, Russian profile, full of much subtlety of accent, the voice sounding in excellent shape, but there is a shade too much self-regard when he opens the ensemble at Larin's party with ''Yes, in your house''. Anisimov is a model Gremin, singing his aria with generous tone and phrasing while not making a meal of it. Olga Borodina is a perfect Olga, spirited, a touch sensual, wholly idiomatic with the text—as, of course, is the revered veteran Russian mezzo Arkhipova as Filipievna, an inspired piece of casting. Sarah Walker, Covent Garden's Filipievna, is here a sympathetic Larina. Also from the Royal Opera comes Egerton's lovable Triquet, but whereas Gergiev, in the theatre, dragged out his couplets inordinately, Bychkov once more strikes precisely the right tempo. Two minor criticisms: why don't Philips employ the Russian transliteration ''Yevgeny'' rather than the discredited ''Eugene'' and why are lines missing from the booklet in the choral passage before Gremin's entrance?
Levine's superficial reading and his less idiomatic cast are totally eclipsed. Not so Tchakarov's version, which has Tomowa-Sintow as a particularly appealing Tatyana, but the ageing Mazurok and Gedda are no match for their successors on this new recording. The Khaikin will always hold a very special place in the discography of the opera, but as a recording it is naturally outclassed by the Philips, which now becomes my outright recommendation.
Eugene Onegin, Op. 24by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky Performer:
Alexander Anisimov (Bass),
Nuccia Focile (Soprano),
Francis Egerton (Tenor),
Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Baritone),
Sarah Walker (Mezzo Soprano),
Sergey Zadvorny (Bass),
Irina Arkhipova (Mezzo Soprano),
Hervé Hennequin (Bass Baritone),
Olga Borodina (Mezzo Soprano),
Neil Shicoff (Tenor)
Orchestre de Paris,
St. Petersburg Chamber Choir
Period: Romantic Written: 1877-1878; Russia Date of Recording: 10/1992 Venue: Maison de la Mutualité, Paris, France Length: 141 Minutes 25 Secs. Language: Russian
Featured Sound Samples
Act I, Scene 1: Lensky: "I love you, Olga"
Act 1, Scene 2: Tatiana's letter scene
Act 1, Scene 3: Onegin: "You wrote to me"
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Excellent; Superbly SungSeptember 23, 2013By Henry S. (Springfield, VA)See All My Reviews"Based on my experience listening to several of Tchaikovsky's operas, I have formed the impression that Tchaikovsky was a somewhat uneven opera composer- a few mediocre or merely adequate works juxtaposed against several legitimate masterpieces. Eugene Onegin falls into this latter category and probably stands as Tchaikovsky's crowning achievement in the opera genre. This outstanding Philips digital recording fom the early 1990's clearly demontrates the very high quality of Tchaikovsky's insight as he built this remarkable opera. With a great cast, a wonderfully lyrical chorus, the sound of the excellent Orchestre de Paris, and conductor Semyon Bychkov's steady direction, the tragic tale of Eugene Onegin's ill-fated romantic impulses explodes to life with intensity, passion, and artistic integrity of the highest order. Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Onegin and Nuccia Focile as Tatyana turn in simply staggering performances, and they are solidly supported by the rest of the superb cast. On top of that, the orchestral score for Eugene Onegin is vintage Tchaikovsky throughout, not just in the famous waltz and polonnaise passages. This recording is so good that it is likely to change the mindset of those who think all Russian opera is bleak and austere. Eugene Onegin, as performed here, is definitely neither bleak nor austere. Definitely recommended."Report Abuse