Friday, 20 January 2012

Roman Tikhomirov: Eugene Onegin - Евгений Онегин (1958)

Director:Roman Tikhomirov
Cast: Vadim Medvedev, Igor Ozerov, Ariadna Shengelaya

Soviet opera film, produced by Lenfilm Studio. The film is a screen version of the famous opera "Eugene Onegin" by Pyotr Tchaikovsky based on the novel in verse by Alexander Pushkin.

...Although it still clings to some of the mannered and static posturings and declamations of the opera, "Eugene Onegin" is still a strong illustration that the unregenerated purists can be wrong and that the arts and mechanics of the movies and lyric theatre may be blended into lifelike, musical and convincing form.

Since the eighty-year-old "Eugene Onegin," which, with "Pique Dame," is perhaps Tchaikovsky at his operatic best, it would be foolhardy to argue that the story, as taken from Pushkin's celebrated long poem, is an overly simple, somewhat musty and archaic affair. As a tragic tale of star-crossed lovers and unrequited love, it is better tucked away with the past, along with faded, sachet-scented letters.

But the production team at the Lenfilm Studios in Leningrad, as well as the principals, the soloists, choruses, orchestras and dancers of the Bolshoi and Leningrad Theatres, have used color, music and movement to transport Onegin, his beloved Tatiana and their coterie of early eighteenth-century landed aristocracy as far from the proscenium arch as possible.

They move about in lush, green meadows and parks studded with silver birch and sparkling lakes, in gracious country houses and in stately St. Petersburg mansions. They sing and dance at vivid sumptuous balls and in pastoral settings of beautiful pastel shades.

Credit must go to director Roman Tikhomirov for keeping his cast, his settings and his score in natural alignment. There are few startling changes from one scene to another and his leading players are, for the most part, at ease and untheatrical in their surroundings.

Since they obviously were only concerned at achieving a top total effect, the producers wisely synchronized professional voices with the talents of some of the more photogenic Soviet actors. To an untutored ear such soloists as Galina Vishnevskaya, who delivers the dulcet soprano tones of Tatiana; Yevgeni Kibkalo, who sings the Onegin baritone arias, and Anton Grigoriev, as the Lensky tenor, sound as professionally striking as any. The same should be said of the orchestral, choral and ballet contributions, which delight both the eye and ear.

Ariadna Shengelaya, as the love-tortured Tatiana, is proof that beauty and ability know no boundaries. The sad brunette is restrained, dignified and believable as the gentle, reflective damsel who never recovers from her first and unfulfilled love.

As the manly but unfettered object of her affections, Vadim Medvedev, is a handsome, Byron-like figure, moody, fiery-eyed and passionate, who cannot forget Lensky, the friend he kills in a duel, or the ardor he has for Tatiana. As Lensky, Igor Ozerov is a properly fragile, poetic type, who is seemingly a mite too gentle for the role. Svetlana Nemolyneva is merely buxom, blonde and overly playful as Tatiana's younger sister, Olga. ...

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