OP2892. EUGEN ONÉGIN, Live Performance, 28 Oct., 1954, w.Doniyakh Cond. Leningrad Maly Opera Ensemble;
Sergei Shaposhnikov, Sergei Lemeshev, Vera Kudryavtseva, Olga Golovina, Alexandra Mescheryakova, etc. (Russia) 2-Aquarius AQVR 380. [The audience's favorable response is quite palpable, especially with Lemeshev's initial appearance! This performance is clearly an 'event'!] - 4607123631454
“Aquarius has just released the first live recording of EUGENE ONÉGIN with the great Soviet tenor Sergei Lemeshev. Lemeshev first sang the role at the Stanislavsky opera studio in 1925 and finally at the Bolshoi on his 70th birthday. It is the role most associated with the singer who recorded it at least twice in the studio (1936 under Nebolsin and 1955 under Khaikin). He performed the role over 500 times throughout his career. The role of Tatyana is sung by his future wife, Vera Kudrayvtseva. Sergei Shaposhnikov, the possessor of a lyric-baritone voice of rare beauty, was a singer of the highest musical culture. His refined sense of style, perfect diction and vocal acting allowed him to become not only an outstanding opera, but also chamber singer. Shaposhnikov was the lead baritone at the Maly Opera Theatre from 1935 – the stage upon which he performed for almost 40 years. Many of his recordings are known from radio broadcasts and records. He enjoyed a long friendship with Lemeshev. Xenia Fedorovna Komissarova , was a mezzo-soprano and manager. She had a repertoire of more than 60 roles. Nikolai Y. Chesnokov who sings the role of Triquet in this performance - is well-known for his wonderful recordings of old Russian romances on shellac. He also recorded the role of the Clerk in Tchaikovsky’s TCHEREVIVHKI (The Slippers) which he also played in the 1944 film of the opera. On the Maly stage he performed the roles of Lenski, Simpleton , Vašek in THE BARTERED BRIDE Bomelei in THE TSAR'S BRIDE, etc. The bass Valery Filaretovich Raikov, who performs the role of the company commander, sang at the Maly Theatre from 1920.”
- Mike Weston, OPERA-L Archives
“I want to thank you for mentioning that latest Aquarius release...the EVGENI ONÉGIN from the Maly Theatre with Sergei Lemeshev. It is in just about every respect, quite wonderful. First, as I put it in my player I noticed that the sound quality was quite good, '50s mono, clear and uncompressed, very natural, with the voices clean and generally forward. And, then, the vocalism! It is superb, the performance as good as it gets (including comparison with the Bolshoi performance of the same year, which is widely available). Lemeshev is in stellar voice.
I am in the midst of comparing the 1955 Bolshoi recording with this new, previously unreleased one on Aquarius (Maly Theatre, 28 October, 1954). Of course, Lemeshev is the Lensky in both, and in both instances he is superb. Galina Vishnevskaya is the Tatiana in the Bolshoi/Melodiya, while an artist with whom I was not too familiar, Vera Kudryavtseva, assumed the same role in the Maly Theatre performance. Vishnevskaya is superb, and that recording catches her at the peak of her artistry; but Kudryavtseva is also very fine....in fact, save for Madame Vishnevskaya, she outshines anyone who has come since (at least in my opinion). The role of Onégin, then, may be the tipping point. Evgeni Belov takes it in the Bolshoi recording, and he is fine. However, Sergei Shaposhnikov in the Aquarius / Maly Theatre is, for me, a bit better, conveying the changing emotional states of Onégin quite well, while retaining the necessary lyricism.
So, while this new Aquarius release, in very fine, untampered with, mono sound may not displace the 1955 Bolshoi, it certainly would not lag far behind...and in some regards is just as good, if not just a bit better, overall.”
The other two items - the PRINCE IGOR and PIQUE DAME - are equally fine, in very good mono sound, well sung. I've always delighted in performances of Alexei Krivchenya (his BORIS GODUNOV interventions are a delight, as the early 1950s film demonstrates), and he does not disappoint as Khan Konchak.
All in all, these are superior issues, well worth the investment, and as good as most any later performances of the works.
Thanks, again, for ‘twisting my arm’!”
- Boyd Cathey
“One of the leading concert singers in Russia was the Ukranian baritone Sergei Shaposhnikov. While he also sang more than 30 operatic roles, including Onégin, Germont, Figaro and Robert in IOLANTA, the focus of and basis for his career, which spanned almost forty years, remained lieder. In addition to Rusian romances and lieder of the German Classic and Romantic periods, he dedicated intense interest to contemporary compositions, initiating numerous premières himself. His recording of Schubert’s WINTERREISE demonstrates that his understated song interpretation is superior to any performance based on mannered expressive effect."
- Kurt Malisch, VOICES BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN
"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
“[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