This revival of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin offered the rarest and sweetest of operatic pleasures: a performance rich in truly first-rate singing.
Hibla Gerzmava, a Russian soprano new to me, made a glorious Covent Garden debut as Tatyana, warmly expressive in the Letter Scene and full-voiced and tonally steady throughout.
In the title role, Gerald Finley was, as ever, exemplary, his musicianship, artistry and technique beyond carping. Their final encounter, in which buried emotions explode destructively, was electrifying.
The secondary roles were taken with no less distinction. Piotr Beczala sang Lensky with virile confidence and ardour, nicely matched against the ebullient Olga of Ekaterina Semenchuk.
A mighty German bass, Hans-Peter Konig, made me sit up and listen to Gremin’s aria, which usually bores me.
Diana Montague was an elegant Larina, Elizabeth Sikora a vivacious Filipyevna and Robin Leggate spot-on as Monsieur Triquet. The chorus sounded magnificent.
All praise to the conductor Jiri Belohlavek, whose conducting combined authoritative pacing with refinement of orchestral detail. Under a lesser baton, this score can sound thin and sentimental, but here its romantic splendour and tragic gravity blossomed.
The only bad news is that Steven Pimlott’s production, revived a year after his sadly premature death by Elaine Kidd, looks even more leadenly lavish, dramatically inept and perversely ugly than it did when it was unveiled in 2006. But don’t let anything put you off buying a ticket for this otherwise superb performance.