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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, 15 Jun 2005
I've said it once on other reviews and I'll say it again: When Deutsche Grammophon and James Levine team up we, the public at large, are in for a delicious treat. Look at any reviews of the products from this combination (La Traviata, The Ring, The Merry Widow) and you will see what I am talking about.
But lets turn to this recording of Eugene Onegin. As a fan of Pushkin and other Russian classical literature, this opera has always had appeal. Add to that the orchestral magic and empathy of a mature Tchaikovsky and we are well on the way to something pretty special.
Levine captures the whole spirit of this opera perfectly moving the music along at a perfect pace whilst delivering skin-tingling nuances along the way.
Yes I would have liked to see a slightly younger figure than Mirella Freni as Tatyana but I'll settle for her awesome performance on this recording. The real star of the show is Thomas Allen who perfectly encapsulates the dispassionate then firey Onegin. Shicoff's Lenski is solid (perhaps not up there with Stuart Burrows's Lenski on the Solti recording) and as an added extra Levine brings you the heavenly voice of Anne Sofie von Otter as Olga.
This is one of those recordings where you can feel comfortable that you have heard this opera at its best, it's in your collection, and now you don't have to worry about whether you've missed something else out there.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Drama and psychological acuity - and in superb sound, 21 July 2010
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Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
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For years I thought I had good reasons for neglecting this set. True, I was always very happy with the old international Solti recording on Decca that introduced me to this most engaging of operas and I then acquired two other sets which I found equally satisfying: the classic 1955 Bolshoi version with Vishnevskaya (see my review) and the later (1984) Bolshoi recording with Mazurok, a favourite singer - but neither of these, although wholly authentic in a way that it would be unreasonable to expect Levine and co to achieve, is great sonically, and there is a always a case for hearing an opera in best sound - which this DG set most certainly is. That is just as well, as the Staatskapelle's playing is sensational. Levine makes Solti, of all conductors, sound almost tame by comparison; key moments such as the duel and the last scene of desperate farewell crackle with intensity and every singer is profoundly immersed in his character. It is the dramatic intensity of this recording which most attracts me; I started to listen, felt myself ineluctably drawn into the narrative and then listened straight through. "Eugene Onegin" is the most literate, wise and adult of operas, thanks to Tchaikovsky's highly intelligent and sensitive adaptation of Pushkin's verse; for once a composer did not find himself hobbled by limp couplets, absurd coincidences and tired conventions - it really is an opera for grown-ups.

Levine's cast really appreciates the psychological complexities of the tale and give it pathos and verismilitude. I had imagined that Freni would be too old for Tatyana, yet there is scarcely a trace of a beat in her voice despite her being 52 at the time of this recording; she is extraordinarily steady, expressive and vibrant, top notes never flap and that homogeneity and beauty of tone are as striking as ever. She was always good at portraying quiet desperation and is even finer here than she is in the even later (1991) "Pique Dame" with Hvorostovsky (see my review), where there are some incipient signs of wear in her voice - but not here. I have not always enjoyed Neil Schicoff's tight tenor, but I have never heard him sing with with more freedom and passion than he does here as Lensky; he is not as elegant as Stuart Burrows but certainly more involved. Likewise, Thomas Allen has never sounded better; his baritone is steadier and more beautiful than Weikl (who always had something of a bleat) and very much the equal of Hvorostovsky - perhaps with a tad more elegance and disdain, too. (I wonder why he omits the climactic top F on "mechti" at the end of his Act One aria "Kogda bi zhizn domashnim krugom", however? Disappointing!) I have in the past found Anne Sofie von Otter bland; not so here as Pauline, although I have nonetheless heard more characterful assumptions of the role. The supporting cast is strong - amusing to hear Michel Sénéchal reprising Monsieur Triquet with just the same wit and elegance - and voice! - that he did for Solti so many years earlier. The chorus is wholly committed and Paata Burchuladze is in his element singing Russian in a role perfectly suited to his grave, sonorous tones.

Russian speakers might object to the internationally accented Russian here. I can't hear it; the singers enunciate very clearly and some, particularly Allen, sound exceptionally Slavonic to me - but what do I know? Freni was married to Russian speaking Bulgarian Nicolai Ghiaurov so must have had some intensive help and modern opera singers generally have to be at least competent linguists. The same objection can be levelled at the Solti set, but most of us don't care or know any better.

So I find my longstanding loyalty to Solti challenged - not before time - and recommend that you own at least one Russian performance and either this or the Solti set to get the best of both worlds.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 25 May 2012
This is my first "Eugene Onegin" cd, and I love it. Orchestra and soloist are excellent and recording is clear. And music is wonderful, of course. I recommend! This "Eugene Onegin" is recorded at the Lucaskirche, Dresden, German.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eugene Onegin, 3 Jan 2012
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N. Byron Fossberg (Italy) - See all my reviews
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Based on the novel in verse by Puskin and brilliantly set to dramatic music by Tchaikovsky, Eugene Onegin Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin is a masterpiece. The selfish hero (Onegin) lives to regret his blasé rejection of a young woman's love (Tatyana) and his careless incitement of a fatal duel with his best friend. The last duet with Onegin and Tatyana is emotional and moving and closes the opera. There is a superb cast with James Jevine conducting the Dresden Staatskapelle Orchestra.
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Tchaikovsky: Eugen Onegin
Tchaikovsky: Eugen Onegin by James Levine and Staatskapelle Dresden
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