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Mackerras, Kanawa, Hampson: Tchaikovsky – Eugene Onegin (2 CD, APE)

Mackerras, Kanawa, Hampson: Tchaikovsky - Eugene Onegin (2 CD, APE)

Mackerras, Kanawa, Hampson: Tchaikovsky - Eugene Onegin (2 CD, APE)

Composer: Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
Performer: Kiri Te Kanawa, Thomas Hampson, Neil Rosenshein, Nicolai Gedda
Orchestra: Orchestra and Chorus of Welsh National Opera
Conductor: Charles Mackerras
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 2
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Chandos
Size: 500 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: no

Thomas Hampson, baritone – Eugene Onegin
Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano – Tatyana
Neil Rosenshein, tenor – Lensky
John Connell, bass – Prince Gremin
Richard van Allan, bass – A Captain/Zaretsky
Nicolai Gedda, tenor – Monsieur Triquet
Linda Finnie, mezzo-soprano – Madame Larina
Elizabeth Bainbridge, mezzo-soprano – Filippyevna
Patricia Bardon, mezzo-soprano – Olga

Chorus of Welsh National Opera
Orchestra of Welsh National Opera
Sir Charles Mackerras – conductor

Disc 1:
01. Act I: Introduction
02. Act I Scene 1: Oh, did you hear the lovesick shepherd boy (Tatyana, Olga, Madame Larina, Nurse)
03. Act I Scene 1: My legs ache and can no longer run (Leader, Peasants, Madame Larina)
04. Act I Scene 1: In a cottage by the water (Peasants)
05. Act I Scene 1: Oh, how I love to hear the people singing (Tatyana, Olga)
06. Act I Scene 1: I’m not the sort to sit in silence (Olga)
07. Act I Scene 1: Come here, my darling Olga! (Madame Larina, Nurse, Tatyana, Peasants, Olga)
08. Act I Scene 1: Mesdames, I hope that you’ll excuse me (Lensky, Onegin, Madame Larina)
09. Act I Scene 1: Now tell me, which of them’s Tatyana? (Onegin, Lensky, Tatyana, Olga)
10. Act I Scene 1: How perfect, how wonderful (Lensky, Olga, Onegin, Tatyana)
11. Act I Scene 1: How I love you, I adore you, Olga (Lensky, Olga)
12. Act I Scene 1: Ah, here you are! (Madame Larina, Nurse, Lensky, Onegin)
13. Act I Scene 2: Introduction
14. Act I Scene 2: There! No more talk tonight (Nurse, Tatyana)
15. Act I Scene 2: I can’t sleep, Nanny (Nurse, Tatyana)
16. Act I Scene 2: Well, let me think now (Nurse, Tatyana)
17. Act I Scene 2: To write is foolishness, I know it (Tatyana)
18. Act I Scene 2: I had to write (Tatyana)
19. Act I Scene 2: No, there could never be another (Tatyana)
20. Act I Scene 2: For you were always there beside me (Tatyana)
21. Act I Scene 2: Are you an angel (Tatyana)
22. Act I Scene 2: No, come what may (Tatyana)
23. Act I Scene 2: Ah, night is over! (Tatyana, Nurse)
24. Act I Scene 2: Oh, Nanny, may I ask a favour? (Tatyana, Nurse)
25. Act I Scene 2: Then make your grandson go in secret (Tatyana, Nurse)
26. Act I Scene 3: Dear companions, come this way (Girls)
27. Act I Scene 3: Onegin! Here! To see me! (Tatyana, Onegin)
28. Act I Scene 3: You wrote a letter (Tatyana, Onegin)
29. Act I Scene 3: Were I the sort who had intended (Onegin)
30. Act I Scene 3: But try to practise self-control (Onegin, Girls)

Disc 2:
01. Act II Scene 1: Entr’acte and Waltz
02. Act II Scene 1: This is superb! (Guests)
03. Act II Scene 1: Certainly! But why aren’t you dancing? (Captain, Guests)
04. Act II Scene 1: So that’s their verdict! (Onegin, Lensky, Guests)
05. Act II Scene 1: How can I have deserved to be so taunted by you? (Lensky, Olga, Onegin)
06. Act II Scene 1: By chance I ‘ave with me a song (Triquet, Guests)
07. Act II Scene 1: A cette fete conviee (Triquet, Guests)
08. Act II Scene 1: Messieurs! Mesdames! (Captain) – Mazurka
09. Act II Scene 1: Why aren’t you dancing, Lensky? (Onegin, Lensky, Guests, Madame Larina)
10. Act II Scene 1: Here in your house! (Lensky, Onegin, Tatyana, Olga, Madame Larina, Guests)
11. Act II Scene 1: Your challenge I accept (Onegin, Lensky, Guests, Olga)
12. Act II Scene 2: Introduction
13. Act II Scene 2: What’s happened? Where can your opponent be? (Zaretsky, Lensky)
14. Act II Scene 2: How far, how far away you seem now (Lensky)
15. Act II Scene 2: Ah, here they are! (Zaretsky, Onegin, Lensky)
16. Act II Scene 2: We fight to satisfy our honour (Zaretsky, Onegin, Lensky)
17. Act III Scene 1: Polonaise
18. Act III Scene 1: Here, too, I’m bored! (Onegin)
19. Act III Scene 1: Ecossaise
20. Act III Scene 1: The Princess Gremina! (Guests, Onegin, Tatyana, Gremin)
21. Act III Scene 1: The gift of love is rightly treasured (Gremin)
22. Act III Scene 1: And now, you must be introduced to her (Gremin, Tatyana, Onegin)
23. Act III Scene 1: Is this the very same Tatyana (Onegin)
24. Act III Scene 2: Introduction
25. Act III Scene 2: Why, why did he return and write this letter? (Tatyana, Onegin)
26. Act III Scene 2: Onegin, I was then far younger (Tatyana)
27. Act III Scene 2: Ah, Tatyana! (Onegin, Tatyana)
28. Act III Scene 2: Onegin, as a man of honour (Onegin, Tatyana)
29. Act III Scene 2: Onegin! Leave me, I entreat you (Onegin, Tatyana)

Excellent Concept; Flawed Performance

I obtained this recording from my library, desirous of getting acquainted with Tchaikovsky’s operatic output. But as is often the case with library recordings, it was never played enough for me to get into the opera. Later I bought the fabulous DG recording with Thomas Allan as Onegin and fell in love with this classic Russian work.

Chandos’ Opera in English series always attracted my admiration; however, I never listened to one of its entries until now. Yes, the English doesn’t sound as perfectly natural as the Russian (it’s to be expected!), but this recording still uses a fine translation. Not only does it capture the meter of the libretto, but often the rhyming. Somehow, though, I think the main reason we think the English sounds odd is because we aren’t used to it – and we understand it. I am thoroughly happy that this recording was made. There are plenty of Russian Eugene Onegins out there.

On to the performance. This is where things become really sticky. Thomas Hampson is ideal as Onegin – almost as good as Thomas Allan in my opinion. He packs a lot of emotion into his character, with splendid singing that shows Baritones can be romantic too. Kiri Te Kanawa has a few un-girlish moments, but on the whole is a splendid Tatyana. No complaints concerning John Connell as Prince Gremin or Patricia Bardon as Olga.

The two tenors are another matter. As fine as Gedda’s singing was in the days of analogue, it comes over far less freshly here. Mackerras also rushes him through Trinquet’s Couplets at a speed that accentuates the decline in Gedda’s powers. Neil Rosenshein sings Lensky with a lot of emotion, but his upper range often comes over as unpleasantly strained. The wobble of his upper notes distracts from what is otherwise a very good set.

The chorus (which has little to do, overall) is very good, though the magic of the Peasant’s Chorus really isn’t captured to the same extent as in other performances. Part of this is due to the orchestra, which lacks some of the cohesion and bite present in, say, James Levine’s DG recording.

Chandos is very generous with tracking – 59 tracks on two CDs – but many of these divisions take place in the middle of songs, making the purchasing of the MP3 album undesirable. There would be many clicks between music that should flow smoothly upon playback.

Overall, this is a noble effort at appealing to English-speaking music fans that is very commendable, flaws notwithstanding. If you can get past the strained Lensky, there is much to enjoy here – but not as much as there could have been.

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