Saturday, October 09, 2021

Boris Godunov in HD

 

Conductor...............Sebastian Weigle
Production..............Stephen Wadsworth 

Boris Godunov...........René Pape 
Prince Shuisky..........Maxim Paster 
Pimen .......................Ain Anger 
Grigory, Dmitry pretender......David Butt Philip 
Varlaam....................Ryan Speedo Green 
Simpleton*..............Miles Mykkanen

We saw in the movie theater the original 1869 version of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov performed in the critical edition by Michael Rot.  This is a different version of the opera than the one we saw in 2010, but the production is the same and the lead singer, René Pape, is also the same.  In this version the character Marina does not appear.  Here is a calendar for reference.

1547 Ivan the Terrible tsar
1552 Boris born
1557 Feodar I born
1582 Dmitry of Uglich born
1584 Ivan died
1585 Feodar tsar, Boris regent
1591 Dmitry died
1598 Feodor died
1598 Boris became tsar
1605 Boris died

We may assume the time line for the opera begins when Feodar dies and Boris becomes tsar, and it ends when Boris dies.  In real life people pretended to be Dmitry, and that is the basis for the plot.  Boris is very reluctant to be tsar, but eventually agrees. Grigory pretends to be Dmitry and a story about how Dmitry didn't appear dead is added to support this.

But that is the problem with this opera.  For those of us who are ignorant of Russian history we have no idea what actually happened.  Did Dmitry go off to Lithuania as a child only to reappear after Boris is tsar?  Sometimes it seems he did and sometimes it seems he didn't.  Boris seems not to have made up his mind whether or not he killed him.  It's all rather confused.

In this version, focused entirely on politics, there is a sameness to it all.  I can see why people complained.

The production and performances were all excellent, especially our star
René Pape.  I may have seen this enough.

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