Eugene Onegin is one of the great Russian operas, and is amazing as an opera in general too. It is involving and touching with some of the most beautiful music Tchaikovsky ever wrote. This film from 1958 is outstanding in all regards, Petr Weigl's 1988 film is also a masterpiece- the Hvorostovsky/Fleming Met production I thoroughly enjoyed as well- but I marginally prefer this one. The locations are really colourful and striking and the costumes are wonderfully opulent, enhanced by the skillful photography. The lip-sync has in some opera films been a problem, but it isn't here. How everything is acted out and staged is not as spontaneous as when you see an opera live, but this doesn't matter when everything is so movingly done with never a dull moment.
The dancing really does give you the impression that you are at a ball, Lensky and Gremin's aria are heart-wrenching and the Letter scene shows Tatyana's vulnerability wonderfully. The orchestral playing is rousing in the Polanaise, lush and soaring in the Letter scene and sensitive and expressive in Lensky's aria. The conducting show authority and nuances, while the chorus are animated and beautifully balanced. The singing couldn't have been more perfect, Galina Vishnevskaya sings powerfully but also perfectly conveying Tatyana's shyness and vulnerability. Yevgeni Kibkalo's timbre is beautiful and full of virility, while Anton Grygoriev's singing is full of expressive lyricism, while Larissa Avdeyeva sings Olga with a full mezzo and I love equally Gremin's resonant bass.
As for the acting that is just as superb, and in perfect sync with the voices, with Vadim Medvedev's Onegin in particular arrogance and eloquence personified. Ariadna Shengelaya is a touching Tatyana, while Igor Ozerov plays the young poet Lensky with charm. Svetlana Nemolyaeva and Ivan Petrov give commanding performances respectively as Olga and Gremin. All in all, an amazing film. I will see Queen of Spades and Prince Igor by the same director but I do doubt they will be better than this Eugene Onegin. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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