Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Bel Air Classiques
WORKS: Eugene Onegin
PERFORMER: Mariusz Kwlecien, Tatiana Monogarova, Andrey Dunaev; Bolshoi Theatre Chorus & Orchestra/Alexander Vedernikov; dir. Dmitri Tcherniakov (Paris, 2008)
CATALOGUE NO: BAC 046 (NTSC system; PCM stereo; 16:9 picture format)

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Sixty years of a Bolshoi Onegin production fixed in amber prompted this radical re-think by young director-designer Dmitri Tcherniakov.

With the first two Acts hermetically sealed in a Russian dining room – modern-dress, in essence timeless – nearly everything the main characters do and feel is overseen by the chorus of house-guests. It helps to highlight the isolation of the three main characters. But it’s horribly cruel, Tchaikovsky’s intimacy is lost and not all the secondary roles, least of all Makvala Kasrashvili’s over-the-top Larina, have the realism that informed Andrea Breth’s even more shocking Salzburg production (released on DG).

The intelligent principals selflessly support Tcherniakov’s vision. It isn’t easy for Tatiana Monogarova’s frozen Tatiana to win our sympathy, but she phrases what is more a Mad than a Letter Scene beautifully. The move to glacially smiling society hostess is shocking.

Handsome, charismatic Mariusz Kwiecien, no cold roué, delivers his crucial arioso as an attempt to get through to Tatiana (conflicted preparation on this is the focal point of an incomplete accompanying documentary). Lyric tenor Andrey Dunaev has the hardest task of all as Lensky: mocked by his dysfunctional Olga, clownishly compelled to take over Monsieur Triquet’s couplets at the party when his heart is breaking.

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The solution to the duel is controversial but powerful, the heart of a superb Russian production. A pity conductor Alexander Vedernikov paces the Bolshoi Orchestra so variably, but he does reinstate several rarely-heard passages. David Nice