OP1689. EUGEN ONÉGIN, recorded 1956, w.Khaikin Cond. Bolshoi Theatre Ensemble; Eugene Belov, Sergei Lemeshev, Ivan Petrov, Galina Vishnevskaya, Eugenia Verbitskaya, etc. 2-Legato LCD-163. Final copy!
“If one wants the most dramaticaly compelling account of Tchaikovsky's EUGEN ONÉGIN on CD, the decision appears simple enough: Acquire the Legato Classics issue (LCD 163; two CD's), whose Tatyana is the gripping actress Galina Vishnevskaya in her vocal prime. That performance, however, happens to be the oldest of four complete versions now available, a monaural issue dating from 1956.
What makes the decision a bit difficult, of course, is the recording's age, which might deter an audiophile with ears of gold and heart of stone. In fact, though the transfer to CD has greatly improved the sound, it suffers in comparison with today's all-digital standards. As Soviet recordings went, it was not at all bad for its time.”
- Donal Henahan, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 27 May, 1990
“This recording made by Melodiya in 1955 captures a remarkable performance of EUGEN ONÉGIN with performers from the Bolshoi Opera during one of its golden ages. The Bolshoi had been performing the opera for nearly three quarters of a century, and the singers and instrumentalists had the spirit of Tchaikovsky in their blood. This performance features the young Galina Vishnevskaya, who had just made her Bolshoi début a few years earlier as a touching, luminous, and passionate Tatiana, as well as the legendary Ivan Petrov, in a bit of luxury casting, in the small but critical role of Gremin. The remaining singers, who are less familiar in the West, are no less exemplary in their vocalism and the intense conviction of their performances. Sergei Lemeshev delivers a particularly penetrating portrayal of Lensky, capturing the poet's many moods with warmth and intense expression. Yevgeny Belov has a velvety tenor and effectively communicates Onégin's transformation from callous arrogance to sincere, if ill-considered, passion. All the smaller roles are equally well taken, demonstrating the depth of the company's artistic team. Boris Khaikin's impassioned and thoroughly idiomatic reading of the score breathes with the characters and inexorably moves the drama to its abrupt and poignant ending. The mono sound is surprisingly good for the time, full and warm, with good clarity. The performers' idiomatic musicality and profound understanding of the opera make this a recording that should be of interest to any lovers of Tchaikovsky or of Romantic opera.
- Stephen Eddins, All Music Guide
"I made my first operatic recording, EUGEN ONÉGIN, with Boris Khaikin, a conductor from the Bolshoi, and the singers Evgeny Belov and Sergei Lemeshev....by then fifty-four and for decades the most famous Russian tenor [who] rejoiced like a child that he had finally had the opportunity to record his favorite role. How fortunate for future generations of singers and the listening public that this outstanding singer has left his unsurpassed interpretation of Lensky to posterity….For dozens of years Sergei Lemeshev was the public's idol....and in Soviet Russia there has not been - and will not be for years to come - an artist to equal the enchantment of his voice, his irresistible charm, and his mastery. Everything about him was artistic....On the stage, until the end of his career, he was a youth, beloved and vulnerable. Even at seventy he still drove his admirers into ecstasies every time he sang Lensky at the Bolshoi....."
- Galina Vishnevskaya, GALINA, pp.174, 176 & 324
“Galina Vishnevskaya, the wife of the celebrated cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, was renowned both as an emotional singer with a polished technique and as a charismatic actress. She had performed in operettas and music hall revues before joining the Bolshoi Theater of Russia, the country’s premier opera company.
At the Bolshoi she breathed new life into stodgy Soviet-era productions with dynamic interpretations of Tatyana in Tchaikovsky’s EUGENE ONÉGIN, Marina in Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV and Natasha Rostova in Prokofiev’s WAR AND PEACE. In 23 years at the Bolshoi, from 1952 through 1974, she performed more than 30 roles.
Though Ms. Vishnevskaya was rarely allowed to sing in the West at the height of her powers in the 1960's and ’70s, she drew rave reviews when she did. ‘Galina Vishnevskaya’s appearances at the Metropolitan Opera are like a comet’s, sudden, infrequent, capable of lighting up the sky’, Raymond Ericson wrote in The New York Times, reviewing her performance in the title role of Puccini’s TOSCA in 1975.”
- Jonathan Kandell, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 11 Dec., 2012
“[Lemeshev] developed a mixed voice of incomparable beauty which made it possible for him to take the highest notes with such beautiful richness that even specialists could not explain how it was done. His high Cs…sounded virile and full.”
- Anatoly Orfenov