Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: BMG Melodiya
WORKS: Eugene Onegin
PERFORMER: Valentina Petrova, Galina Vishnevskaya, Larissa Avdeyeva, Evgeni Belov, Sergei LemeshevBolshoi Theatre Chorus & Orchestra/Boris Khaikin
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 17090 2 ADD Reissue
An ideal recording of Onegin has yet to be made, but this reissue from the Bolshoi archive probably comes closer than anything currently available. Its strengths lie in the passionate way the drama is played out, and in the sheer Russianness of the interpretation, both musically – the conductor Boris Khaikin draws an exhilarating and charged performance from the Bolshoi Orchestra – and vocally: it is well and unaffectedly sung, and the diction is, without exception, exemplary.

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Galina Vishnevskaya’s Tatyana is enchanting and entirely convincing. Her voice is neither sweet, nor tonally beautiful, but her capacity to project emotion is impeccable, making the Letter Scene memorably affecting in its ardour, and suffusing the final scene with searing tragedy.

Evgeni Belov’s Onegin is also finely drawn although his performance is – appropriately enough – markedly cooler than either Vishnevskaya’s or Sergei Lemeshev’s gloriously lyrical portrayal of Lensky. Lemeshev’s is a high, silvery tenor, but in his two main second-act arias his ability to convey quavering horror at the prospect of the duel is powerfully moving.

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The sound is refreshingly clean – particularly since the recording is nearly 40 years old – but is marred by a rather flattened and dry acoustic. And it’s a shame BMG provides neither a libretto nor a synopsis. Claire Wrathall