• 5 - Eugene Onegin - Discography, DVD, complete film version



    Conductor- Vassily Nebolsin, Moscow 1936


    Onegin - Panteleimon Nortsov
    Lensky - Sergei Lemeshev
    Tatyana - Glafira Joukovskaya
    Olga - Bronislava Zlatogorova
    Larina - Maria Boutienina
    Filipyevna - Konkordiya Antarova
    Gremin - Alexander Pirogov
    Triquet - Ivan Kovalenko

    This is the first recorded Onegin, and a worthy candidate to be also the best.

    Everything sounds here fresh and new. The lively tempi (sometimes a little bit too lively) used by Nebolsin contributing a lot to this impression, but also the young and unearthly beautiful voice of a wonderful Lemeshev, the absolute reference as Lensky. With such a singer, you pray it was Onegin, and not Lensky, the victim at the duel. And is not that Nortsov is a weak Onegin, far from it. His is a solid performance, it just belongs to a human kingdom, instead of to the Heavens. Joukovskaya is a properly romantic Tatyana, with a great 'Letter' scene. The lower voices are appropriate, with an outstanding Pirogov, such a noble and powerful bass, but that can also be so delicate while mentioning how he loves his young wife.

    The sound, while it's not bad for a 1936 take, is not a strong point for this recording.

    Overall: A



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    Conductor- Alexander Melik-Pachaïev, Moscow 1937

    Onegin - Panteleimon Nortsov
    Lensky - Ivan Kozlovsky
    Tatyana - Elena Krouglikova
    Olga - Elisabeta Antonova
    Larina - Ludmila Roudnivskaya
    Filipyevna - Vera Makarova
    Gremin - Maxim Mikhailov
    Triquet - Sergei Ostrokumov

    In the 1930s there was an incredible rivalry between Sergei Lemeshev and Ivan Kozlovsky. Both were the biggest stars of the Bolshoi Opera, and they had a big number of followers. It was logical that after Lemeshev's recording, there was one with Kozlovsky. The only point in common was Nortsov, who offers again a solid, if unexciting, Onegin. Kozlovsky's Lensky is not the equal of Lemeshev's, not by any means, but it's a very good one, nonetheless. The weakest point is Krouglikova's Tatyana, a beautiful voice, but it sounds too mature for the role. Something similar could be said about Mikhailov, who delivers a properly aged Gremin, but somehow we are missing his love for Tatyana. Melik-Pachaïev's conducting is perhaps too mechanic.

    Overall: B

    Let's hear Ivan Kozlovsky singing Lensky:



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    Conductor - Boris Khiakin, Moscow 1956

    Onegin - Eugene Belov
    Lensky - Sergei Lemeshev
    Tatyana - Galina Vishnevskaya
    Olga - Larissa Avdeyeva
    Larina - Valentina Petrova
    Filipyevna - Eugenia Verbitskaya
    Gremin - Ivan Petrov
    Triquet - Andrei Sokolov


    A dream take, one of those that really are at the top of operatic recordings. The sound is good enough, and Khiakin is handling his singers very well, though not delivering all the orchestral subtleties. Eugene Belov sings a beautiful Onegin. Yes, perhaps a little bit too beautiful, we are missing something of the dark side of the character here, but this is superb singing. Vishnevskaya, with her luminous voice and her fresh timbre is the perfect portrait of the young and dreamy Tatyana, and she also moves with the character to become a noble and all-for-duty lady in the last Act. Avdeyeva is arguably the best Olga ever, and Petrov is rock solid as Gremin. What can we say about Lemeshev? Twenty years after his first recorded Onegin, close to sixty years old, after losing one lung and having some problems with alcohol, he still has that voice, and can transmit that emotion with his singing.

    Overall: A+



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    A non-Russian recordings:



    Conductor, James Levine, Dresden 1989
    Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle
    Chorus, Leipzig Radio Chorus

    Onegin - Thomas Allen
    Tatyana - Mirella Freni
    Lensky - Neil Schicoff
    Olga - Anne Sophie von Otter
    Gremlin - Paata Burchuladze

    Jimmy Levine here is maybe a little overenthusiastic and his conducting is a bit flashy, lacking the solemn overtones that Onegin sometimes requires in the more melancholic parts. But it is certainly exciting. Allen does an excellent job, and it is curious to see an Italianate soprano like Freni doing Tatyana; she clearly brings some energy to the role, and is able to show both youth (in spite of her age at this time) in the first act and maturity in the third. While I'm not the greatest of Schicoff's fans, I do recognize that sometimes he can be very effective, and here, he is. Burchuladze is a very fine Gremlin.

    What makes or breaks this recording is - do we want our Eugene Onegin to be ponderous, or do we want it lively? I'd be for the former so this is not my preferred recording, but then, it's a welcome variation.

    Overall: C

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    And then there's this one, a hybrid, half Russian, half Western:


    Conductor, Semyon Bychkov, 1990
    Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris
    Chorus, St. Petersburg Chamber Chorus

    Onegin - Dmitri Hvorostovsky
    Tatyana - Nuccia Focile
    Lensky - Neil Schicoff
    Olga - Olga Borodina
    Gremin - Alexander Anisimov

    This one is OK, folks. Hvorostovsky sings a decent Onegin, and Focile, like Freni, impacts some gentle Italianate interpretation on the young girl. Schicoff repeats the good job I've commented upon upstairs, and the conducting, unlike Levine's exhuberance, is restrained, thoughtful, and sad. Sound quality is very good. I like this one better than the previous one.

    Overall: B

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    Conductor - Georg Solti, London 1975

    Onegin - Bernd Weikl
    Lensky - Stuart Burrows
    Tatyana - Teresa Kubiak
    Olga - Julia Hamari
    Larina - Anna Reynolds
    Filipyevna - Enid Hartle
    Gremin - Nicolai Ghiaurov
    Triquet - Michel Sénéchal


    This was the first version in Russian, with non native singers. Mr. Solti gets a superb sound out of the Royal Opera House orchestra, but all the performance is rather cold, not very Romantic. Kubiak was an intelligent soprano, but she is lacking the vocal means to give the role its full due. Weikl is too detached, more an English than a Russian character, while Stuart Burrows just sing the notes. Ghiaurov is always himself, perhaps the best thing in this recording, with the very funny Sénéchal. The other females roles are not really well served.

    Overall: C



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    Conductor - Valery Gergiev, New York 2007
    Stage Director - Robert Carsen

    Onegin - Dmitri Hvorostovsky
    Lensky - Ramón Vargas
    Tatyana - Renée Fleming
    Olga - Elena Zaremba
    Larina - Svetlana Volkova
    Filipyevna - Larissa Shevchenko
    Gremin - Sergei Alexashkin
    Triquet - Jean-Paul Fouchécourt


    Gergiev's conducting is energetic. Indeed, too energetic, we could demand some closer attention to the more tender moments in the score, though he is able to deliver, with Fleming, a very inspired Letter scene. Mr. Hvorostovsky has the ideal physique du role for Onegin. Pity about the rest. Renée Fleming, the only non-Russian (or French) performer with Vargas, is great in this role, with a fantastic first act and also in her duet with Onegin at the end of the opera. Mr. Vargas is singing well, but he fades from memory the moment he dies at the duel. Elena Zaremba is more a Russian matrioshka than a young and flirtatious woman, and Prince Gremin just loses his only, but wonderful, opportunity for brilliance.

    But perhaps the real highlight of this recording is Carsen's staging. Visually stunning, but also strong from a conceptual point of view, using just as few elements as possible, not distracting from the drama, but enhancing it, accompanying the music as a faithful partner from beginning to end.

    Overall: B



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    Though we will not review them for different reasons, just to mention three other Onegin recordings:

    1.- Rostropovitch CD from 1970, with her wife, Atlantov, Mazurok,... that is difficult to find, but once found, it's not really worth the pain. Vishnevskaya is no longer 1956's Tatyana, and Atlantov resembles more a Sergeant from a Husar regiment than a poet.

    2.- An Onegin in German, with Hermann Prey and Fritz Wunderlich, conducted by Joseph Keilberth, recorded in 1962 (there are other German versions, but this is the only one I've heard). I know many people would prefer the original in Russian, but just to hear Wunderlich singing Lensky is reward enough.

    3.- A bootleg DVD, but that can be also find in form of a TV broadcast in youtube, from Paris in 2003, with Chernov, Beczala, Domaschanko and Guryakova, and a beautiful staging by Willy Decker. Chernov should sing Gremin instead of Onegin, and Beczala is ok, but the real thrills here are Domaschenko and Guryakova, who are just the perfect portrait of Olga and Tatyana.





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    On YouTube, our readers can watch a complete filmed performance of Eugene Onegin, in 14 parts, but with no subtitles (but remember, we have posted a link to the libretto in English elsewhere in this series, so it may help):

    Eugene Onegin - 1958 Film, Bolshoi

    Conductor: Boris Khaykin
    Director: Roman Tikhomiro

    Vadim Medvedev - Eugene Onegin (singing Yevgeny Kibkalo)
    Igor Ozerov - Vladimir Lensky (singing Anton Grigoryev)
    Ariadna Shengelaya - Tatyana Larina (singing Galina Vishnevskaya)
    Svetlana Nemolyayeva - Olga Larina (singing Larisa Avdeyeva)



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