OP3194. EUGEN ONÉGIN, Live Performance, 8 May, 1951, w.Khaikin Cond. Leningrad Maly Opera Ensemble;
Ivan Alekseyev, Ivan Kozlovsky, Olga Kashevarova, Lyudmila Grudina, Sofia Preobrazhenskaya, Nikolai Konstantinov, etc. (Russia) 2-Aquarius AQVR 398 [The audience's wildly enthusiastic response is quite palpable, especially with Kozlovsky's initial appearance, briefly interrupting the stage action - not unlike the exciting response to Lemeshev in his live performance, OP2892! This performance is clearly another such 'event'!] - 4607123631782
There are two studio-made recordings of EVGENYI ONEGIN with the great Ukrainian tenor Ivan Kozlovsky as Lensky. The first was made in 1937 with Melik-Pashaev conducting (and has been released on Naxos [OP0146]), the second in 1953 with Orlov conducting (released on Myto and Preiser). Both are classics, and serious collectors either already do or should have at least one of them. But what we have here is something very special, and also something we havent had an opportunity to experience: Kozlovsky in a live, staged performance. I am not aware of any other in-performance recording of an opera featuring this superb singer. Although he was virtually the house tenor at the Bolshoi in Moscow, in 1951 Kozlovsky did appear at the Kirov Opera in Leningrad (now the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg). This recording has never been released before in any form of which I am aware, and one is grateful to Aquarius for securing it, and to Norbeck, Peters & Ford for making it available (www.norpete.com).
The sound quality is good - what Id call standard 1951 monaural broadcast sound, a bit constricted but rich enough to serve the orchestral and vocal colors well. The performance as a whole is excellent, conducted with both urgency and appropriately melancholy shades by Boris Khaikin. Olga Kashevarova is a lovely Tatiana, with a rich spinto voice that lacks the edge of so many Slavic sopranos. Her tone positively glows throughout the range, and she brings strong dramatic skills to the role as well. Her Letter Scene is impassioned, sung with genuine sweep and ardor. Ivan Alekseev also brings a warm baritone timbre and dramatic insight to the title role. He sang at the Kirov for 30 years, starting in 1945, and one can hear why he was one of their prime baritones, though his voices lacks the unique timbre and brilliance of Lisitsian.
But the central reason for this set is Kozlovsky, a unique artist heard in one of his signature roles. As good as his two studio recordings are, here he is enlivened by the presence of an audience and the momentum of a staged performance. His entrance is greeted by an ovation, as is his singing of Lenskys big aria. The excellent accompanying notes tell us that the audience demanded and got an encore of that aria, but it isnt included. His singing of the aria encapsulates everything about Kozlovsky that made him so distinguished: a huge range of dynamic shading with an infinite variety between pp and ff, a limitless imagination for phrasing, and a remarkable ability to hold the audience through pauses that would kill the performance of any other singer. Many famous tenors have recorded this aria, but none compares to this account. It stands as a supreme example of vocal mastery. Kozlovskys overall performance is more than just a magnificent rendering of one aria. Throughout, this is singing with a real face. Kozlovskys Lensky is a believable young poet and a dreamer, emotionally full throttle at every moment. What we hear is one of the great opera portrayals of all time, preserved in the heat of a live performance. If the word historic applies to anything, it applies to this recording.
As for the supporting roles, Nikolai Konstantinov is a solid, black-voiced bass who sings Gremin with touching humanity, and Lyudmila Grudina is a rich-toned and credible Olga. Aquarius provides a nice booklet with notes in Russian by Maxim Nikiforov, well translated by Michael Weston. If this opera and great singing are things that matter to you, I consider this release essential even if you already have one or both of Kozlovskys studio recordings.
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
This performance of Tchaikovskys EUGEN ONÉGIN was performed during Ivan Kozlovskys tour of Leningrad and the surrounding area in May 1951. This recording is from the performance on May 8th (He performed Faust on May 10th). This recording offers the first opportunity of hearing Kozlovsky in a live opera performance; (it wasnt until the 1970s that his concerts would be regularly recorded, although earlier concerts do exist in the GTRF archive). Like Lemeshev, it is a Leningrad performance of ONÉGIN which offers us the chance of hearing the role of Lensky sung by one of the Bolshois greatest exponents of the role (Lemeshevs performance from the Maly theatre from 28th December 1954 was released by Aquarius in 2013 [OP2892]). It is, incidently, a role which they would both record twice in the studio. Unfortunately there is no recorded performance of Kozlovsky, singing the role from the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre in the archives. The role of Onégin is taken by the Kirovs (now Mariinsky) star baritone, Ivan Alekseev who had joined the Kirov in 1945. The roles of Onégin, the Demon, Yeletsky and Mazeppa counted amongst his greatest achievements on that stage. His distinctive lyric baritone can be heard in extracts of many of these on LP as well as Songs , Romances, and live performances of WERTHER, BORIS GODUNOV and THE DESTINY OF A MAN, etc. which been broadcast). Olga Afanasevna Kashevarova (Tatiana) was a lead singer at that theatre between 1931 and 1959. Her most famous portrayals were Tatiana, Natasha in RUSALKA, Masha in DUBROVSKY and Nastasya in ENCHANTRESS (for her performance of this role she was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1942). She can be heard in full recordings of THE MAID OF ORLEANS (Agnes) and THE DEMON (with Georg Ots). Lyudmila Grudina (Olga) was an excellent mezzo-soprano with sonorous low notes, a clean and warm tone, sincerity and a simplicity of acting on stage. She became a soloist at the Kirov from 1944, and for many years she performed both the dramatic roles as well as the smaller character parts. One of her best roles was that of Duenna in Prokofievs opera BETROTHAL IN THE MONASTERY. Anna Filatovna Mankovskaya (Larina) was one of the leading mezzo-sopranos, along with Preobrazhenskaya and Welter, who were performing at the Kirov during this period. In 1930 she sang in Kiev and Sverdlovsk. Among her best roles were Carmen, Joan (MAID OF ORLEANS), Amneris and Catherine II in the opera CHRISTMAS EVE.
- Mike Weston
Ivan Kozlovsky was certainly one of the greatest tenors active in the USSR throughout the 1940s into the 1960s. Yet, despite his many performances at the Bolshoi, this is his only live performance to surface. His Lensky is a superb characterization, a personality of sensitivity and culture whose regret at the coming duel with Onégin is palpably and effectively communicated. Ivan Alexeyevs excellently characterized and beautifully-sung Onégin portrays the characters initial superficiality, which makes his remorse in the final scene all the more powerful
.[Konstantinovs] performance [as Gremin] is one of the most enjoyable I have heard. His performance moves, musically and emotionally, to reflect the feelings of his character. Olga Kaskevarovas Tatiana reflects her years of experience with the role that is a richly-sung and intensely emotional performance. Her final duet with Alexeyevs Onégin is excellent
. Aquarius must have used master tapes or something close as the sound is clear and well-defined with no surface noise or distortion
- William Russell, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2016
Boris Emmanuilovich Khaykin was a Russian Jewish conductor who was named a People's Artist of the USSR in 1972. Khaykin was born in Minsk, then part of the Russian Empire. He studied at the Moscow Conservatory under Nikolai Malko and Konstantin Saradzhev. He was artistic director of the Little Leningrad Opera Theatre in 1936-43 and the principal conductor at the Kirov Theatre in 1944-53, where he conducted the première of Sergei Prokofiev's BETROTHAL IN A MONASTERY on 3 November 1946. He moved to the Bolshoi Theatre in 1954.
- Z. D. Akron