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Bychkov: Tchaikovsky – Eugene Onegin, 1993 (2 CD, FLAC)

Bychkov: Tchaikovsky - Eugene Onegin, 1993 (2 CD, FLAC)
Bychkov: Tchaikovsky - Eugene Onegin, 1993 (2 CD, FLAC)

Composer: Pyotr I’lyich Tchaikovsky
Performer: St. Petersburg Chamber Choir
Orchestra: Paris Orchestra
Conductor: Semyon Bychkov
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 2
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Label: Philips
Size: 571 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: no

Larina – Sarah Walker
Tatyana – Nuccia Focile
Olga – Olga Borodina
Filipyevna – Irina Arkhipova
Eugene Onegin – Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Lensky – Neil Shicoff
Prince Gremin – Alexander Anisimov
Triquet – Francis Egerton
A Captain – Herve Hennequin
Zaretsky – Sergei Zadvorny

The Definitive Eugene Onegin

This album is the definitive recording of Eugene Onegin in a long time to come. Recorded during its stage production season (with almost the same cast) at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris in 1992, it is sung with a most distinguished cast – singers of Russians and non-Russians, in each of the distinguished roles.

Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, which was inspired by Pushkin’s narrative poem, is an opera with the style of its own. Apart from its music distinctions, it is not an opera in the traditional sense (larger than life characters, grand scenes, etc.), but a series of “lyrical scenes” as Tchaikovsky referred, although its drama is not any less intense to be an opera. It is about love, aspects of love – bliss, longings, and passions – that is reflected from each of the central characters. It works very well on stage in an intimate production, and so does it on recording. The music sets the mood and flavor of each scene that speaks for itself and plays by itself. The psychological conduction of the characters is largely relied on the singers’ vocal acting. As firstly insisted by Tchaikovsky, it is essential that characters are played by young singers who look and feel the closest to the characters.

They say there is a lot of Pushkin in the title role Onegin, who is bright and dashing, also aloof and cynical, and whose deep passion was not grown into flame until the last act of the opera. You’d feel grateful that Tchaikovsky gave Onegin to a baritone. Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, with a beautiful lyric voice and a dramatic temperament, fits perfectly for the role. The dark toned voice is most effective in striking the dramatic chord while his lyrical sense brings sensitivity to this otherwise not-so-likable character. His Onegin is idiomatic in the emotional coloring in the music that comes from the sound of Russian language. At the time of this production’s season in Paris, Hvorostovsky, who waltzed and mazurka-ed on stage, was about the same age as Onegin in the last act. These days he still sings the role regularly in various opera houses. You could very much say that this role belongs to him and he has made Eugene Onegin convincingly human and real. Compared to Onegin’s complexities, Tatyana and Lensky are two characters easier to identify. Nuccia Focile’s voice rings with clarity and freshness that fully realizes the beautifully illustrated Tatyana. In Tatyana’s elaborate letter-writing scene, Focile’s singing embodies the character’s tenderness, sensitivity, and impulsiveness with great conviction. Neil Shicoff’s lyric tenor is ideal for Lensky. The voice has an elegant timbre, well focused and expressive. He sings Lensky with such vivid emotions, and in the famous Lensky’s aria he delivers a most heartfelt rendering. Distinguished Russian mezzo Olga Borodina makes the most of the simple-minded Olga, which is a role that wasn’t given a lot of depth for what it lacks. Russian mezzo Irina Arkhipova is in the cameo role of Filipyevna, singing with great strength. St Petersburg Chamber Choir is brilliant as ever, particularly in the ethnic songs. And the last, but certainly not the least, Russian-born conductor Semyon Bychkov imparts Tchaikovsky’s sensitivity, poetic beauty, and passion through the orchestra with success and style.

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