Search - Mirella Freni, Thomas Allen, Anne Sofie von Otter :: Tchaikovsky - Eugen Onegin / T. Allen, Freni, von Otter, Shicoff, Burchuladze; Levine

Tchaikovsky - Eugen Onegin / T. Allen, Freni, von Otter, Shicoff, Burchuladze; Levine
Mirella Freni, Thomas Allen, Anne Sofie von Otter
Tchaikovsky - Eugen Onegin / T. Allen, Freni, von Otter, Shicoff, Burchuladze; Levine
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #2

Levine has assembled a cast strong in both singing and acting, although Mirella Freni is a bit mature for the teenage Tatiana and there are no Russians in the leading roles. The conducting quite properly emphasizes the psy...  more »


CD Details

Synopsis essential recording
Levine has assembled a cast strong in both singing and acting, although Mirella Freni is a bit mature for the teenage Tatiana and there are no Russians in the leading roles. The conducting quite properly emphasizes the psychological and emotional extremes in a story deeply imbued with the Byronic attitudes and poses of literary Romanticism. The orchestra, in James Levine's (and Tchaikovsky's) hands becomes a character in this drama as vital as any of the singers, and Pushkin's poem-novel, the source of the opera, can be felt with unusual clarity underlying this interpretation. --Joe McLellan

CD Reviews

Which Onegin to buy, Levine or Bychkov?
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 02/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When The Gramophone gave a lukewarm review to Levine's 1989 Eugene Onegin and a rave to the 1993 set under Semyon Bychkov, I felt a healthy skepticism. How a magazine solely devoted to classical listening could hire writers with such lamentably bad ears is beyond me. So I decided to investigate for myself. Without a doubt these are the two leading versions of Tchaikovsky's most famous opera. Ironically, considering that he has sniffed out many rarely heard Russian operas, Valery Gergiev wasn't given the chance to record the second most famous Russian opera, after Boris Godunov; Philips gave the nod to Bychkov instead.

Levine/ Dresden: This is a non-Russian reading with a stellar international cast (British, Italian, American), replicating a great night at the Met in the late Eighties, only transferred to Dresden. The advantages of having world-class musicians at every level, from Levine's truly exceptional conducting to the Staatskapelle's gorgeous orchestral sound and the casting of Freni, Allen, and Shicoff, are unmatched by any rivals. And every singer is in fine voice. How anyone could rate this set below the highest is a mystery to me. Even the German chorus sounds totally Slavic, but then, it helps that 999 out of a thousand Western listeners don't know a syllable of Russian (beyond nyet and da). Our willingness to hear unidomatic singers is one of the reasons Onegin has been so often performaed in the West without benefit of Slavic voices.

What really matters is dramatic conviction, and here again the Levine set is unequalled outside Russia. Tchaikovsky's score is musically static compared to Verdi, with many intimate scenes and inward emotions. Melodies are spun out slowly over long stretches. Therefore, it's vital to have a conductor and singers who bring inner vibrancy to every bar. Levine, Freni, Shicoff, and Allen do just that. I couldn't tear myself away, which wasn't the case listening to the Bychkov set. The one minus cited by many critics has to do with Freni's age, but she's in great voice and frankly sounds as young as anyone could wish without being girlish. Her counterpart on the Bychkov set, Nuccia Focile, sounds fresher but is nowhere near the artist that Freni is. In sum, this is one of Levine's real (and surprising) triumphs on disc.

Bychkov/ Paris -- I am an admirer of Semyon Bychkov, particularly in his early days when he shot to prominence conducting the Berlin Phil. and, as here, the Orchestre de Paris, but his skillful management of the score is underpowereed and at times slack compared to Levine. The melodic line is allowed to languish, however prettily, too often. His orchestra is quite good--it's not recorded in the best sound by Philips--yet it lacks the special finesse and glow of the Dresden group.

The main reason that critics swooned over this set comes down to one name: Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Onegin is his signature role, as Boris Godunov was for Christoff, and he makes the most of it. With his matinee-idol looks, DH is a smash onstage; moreover, he bothers to act with his voice here (as he rarely does in Verdi, Mozart, or sometimes in Russian roles). With his perfeclty even vocal production and superb dramatic inflections, no better, more alluring hero can be imagined.

But the superiority of the singing stops there. Focile gives us a fine Tatyana, but her voice is rather edgy, especially as recorded by Philips. Neil Shicoff repeats his excellent Lensky (another signature role) from the Levine set, but he's notably less fresh and ardent. In fact, Shicoff provides a touchstone for comparison. Listen to any passage where he appears, and see if Levine doesn't bring out much the best in him compared to Bychkov.

Much more could be said about both these esteemed sets, yet this is one case where the dark horse wins the race. I plump for the Levine recording on all counts except Hvorostovsky. He has countless fans, and his Onegin proves that he deserves them. For overall musical pleasure, however, the Philips recording comes in second."
Tchaikovsky's grestest opera superbly sung!
D. J. Edwards | Cheshire, CT United States | 07/16/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Levine conducts a wonderful performance of Tschaikowsky's [this is the spelling on the cover of the CD album] greatest stage work. Freni is moving, believable and in beautiful voice. But the real kudos fall to the three mail leads. Burchuladze sings with all the feelings of an older man who cherishes the love of his younger wife; his aria sung as superbly as he does it says more than some complete operas. Thomas Allen sings with the ego of a foolish young man wise in the ways of the world but ignorant of what it's all about. His bitter regret in Act III sends chills up the spine. His rich tone just adds to the foolishness of his actions. Not since a Met matinee performance of this opera many years ago wilth Gedda as Lenksy has Kenky's" lament been so movingly sung, conveying the sad results of foolish pride and cultural madness. Never has his cries of "Kuda, kuda, kuda" made more imprint than Shicoff does it. To my western ears, this is a nonpareil Eugen Onegin. For a while it was hard to find. It deserves to be included in the DG "Originals" legendary recordings from the DG catalogue. The recording is too young for this I guess but it should be there anyway. A recording to cherish."
A very good recording!
G. Golding | Seattle, WA | 02/07/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This opera is certainly not Boring, as one reviewer stated!
Eugene Onegin contains (in my mind) the most breathtaking flow of absolutely glorious melody in all of Opera. Perhaps Tschaikovsky only matched this in his ballet, The Nutcracker.
The performance here is quite fine. Especially notable is the exciting orchestral playing under the baton of James Levine, wonderfully Slavic and dramatic! Freni, as usual, is the most intelligent of lyrico-spinto sopranos, lightening her voice successfully as she does for all her "young" roles such as Manon Lescaut and Madama Butterfly. Hers may not be the most authentic sounding Russian accent, but it is so nice to have a beautiful Italian voice in such a role. Kudos to her for singing in so many different languages, very rare for an Italian soprano (like Tebaldi). Her voice has an appropriately more mature sound for the thrilling and heart breaking final scene, though I do slightly prefer the role sung by the excellent Kubiak on the Solti disc, with a better Russian accent.
Thomas Allen is a very fine Onegin, aptly dispassionate in the first two acts, rising in operatic passion and drama in the final scene with Tatyana. One oddity is that he omits the not-so-high final note of his act 1 arioso. E strano!
Neil Shicoff is wonderful in the heroic moments of Lensky's music, notably in the final outcry at the end of the act two party scene. He holds that high note forever! In the more intimate moments, the poetic and introverted Lenski is not as well displayed by Shicoff's voice. He cannot match the gorgeously sung performance of Stuart Burrows on the Solti set, even if Burrows is not as exciting in Lenski's outbursts in the party scene.
The rest of the cast is very well sung with Senechal beautifully caught, as he was many years earlier for Solti.
An excellent recording, but I still prefer the Solti set a bit more.... though it was my first love, and it's said that one's first love is always the most special. :)"