Boris Khaikin

Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin

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This recording made by Melodiya in 1955 captures a remarkable performance of Eugene Onegin with performers from the Bolshoi Opera during one of its golden ages. The Bolshoi had been performing the opera for nearly three quarters of a century, and the singers and instrumentalists had the spirit of Tchaikovsky in their blood. This performance features the young Galina Vishnevskaya, who had just made her Bolshoi debut a few years earlier as a touching, luminous, and passionate Tatiana, as well as the legendary Ivan Petrov, in a bit of luxury casting, in the small but critical role of Gremin. The remaining singers, who are less familiar in the West, are no less exemplary in their vocalism and the intense conviction of their performances. Sergei Lemeshev delivers a particularly penetrating portrayal of Lensky, capturing the poet's many moods with warmth and intense expression. Yevgeny Belov has a velvety tenor and effectively communicates Onegin's transformation from callous arrogance to sincere, if ill-considered, passion. All the smaller roles are equally well taken, demonstrating the depth of the company's artistic team. Boris Khaikin's impassioned and thoroughly idiomatic reading of the score breathes with the characters and inexorably moves the drama to its abrupt and poignant ending. The mono sound is surprisingly good for the time, full and warm, with good clarity. The performers' idiomatic musicality and profound understanding of the opera make this a recording that should be of interest to any lovers of Tchaikovsky or of Romantic opera.

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