I used to think of this opera as Onegin-lite but the more I see it the more I appreciate it. On first viewing, I found the singsong round the piano, the masque and the ball all a bit unnecessary but these days I enjoy Tchaikovsky's everything including the kitchen sink approach to opera writing.
The staging here at Barcelona is very elaborate. I liked the groups of mothers, children nannies and nursemaids in the first act. Sometimes the design is rather gaudy as when the stage is filled with young ladies wearing empire line silk dresses in clashing colours.
The minor characters are very well played. Worth mentioning are Ludovic Tézier's sombre Yeletsky, Lado Atoneli's bubbly Tomsky, Elena Zaremba's dark-toned Pauline, doubling as the shepherd in the masque. Ewa Podles makes the most of the wonderful character of the Countess, particularly when, wigless, she is confronted by Hermann.
Sadly, the two stars do not match up to the quality of the supporting cast. Emma Magee has a harsh voice and an ungainly stage presence as Lisa. Misha Didyk's thin tenor is insufficient for the role of Hermann. To me it compared very unfavourably with that of Vladimir Galuzin in the 2007 Mariinsky recording. Didyk is very handsome and looked smart in his black and red uniform apart from the trousers which seemed too big. I wondered whether he was a late replacement in the role and they had not had time to take them in.