Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Eugene Onegin
PERFORMER: Thomas Hampson, Kiri Te Kanawa, Neil Rosenshein, John ConnellWelsh National Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Charles Mackerras
CATALOGUE NO: CDS 5 55004 2 DDD
This recording, using David Lloyd-Jones’s excellent translation, is the first of Onegin in English. Mackerras delivers a masterful balance of Tchaikovsky’s dramatic score, securing excellent colour and lyricism from the WNO Orchestra, while the chorus enunciates its English with praiseworthy clarity.

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Among the supporting roles, Patricia Bardon’s Olga is a fluid, deep mezzo, Nicolai Gedda (who plays Lensky on the Sony/Tchakarov recording of Onegin) is a delightful Monsieur Triquet, and Linda Finnie and Elizabeth Bainbridge characterise Madame Larina and the Nurse with just the right authority of tone – though some of their Act I exchanges are rather rough.

John Connell gives a most distinguished performance as Prince Gremin, and Neil Rosenshein brings tenderness and passion to the role of the lovelorn poet Lensky: his Act II aria is poignant but occasionally sounds strained. Thomas Hampson could have afforded to sound chillier and more aloof in Onegin’s Act I exchanges, but his Act II duet with Lensky against the doom-laden drum rolls is extremely powerful.

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Te Kanawa, aiming to sound naive and vulnerable in Act I as the youthful Tatyana, reduces her vibrant soprano and declaims much of the text with a hard edge. Consequently, the Letter Scene is disappointing. In the final scene of Act III, however, her voice is in full bloom and expressively powerful as the mature Tatyana. Hampson’s inherently soulful baritone, too, is unleashed in Onegin’s impassioned pleading for love and his final declaration of utter despair. Elise McDougall