Opera Scotland

Boris Godunov Boris Godounov

Music
Modest Petrovich Musorgsky (born Karevo, nr Pskov, 21 March 1839; died St Petersburg, 28 March 1881)

Text
The composer.

Source
Drama Boris Godunov (1831) by Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837).

Premières
Original edition:
First performance: St Petersburg (Mariinsky Theatre), 8 February 1874.
First UK performance: London (Sadler’s Wells Theatre), 30 September 1935.
First performance in Scotland: Glasgow (King’s Theatre), 14 May 1965.
Scottish Opera première: As above.

Rimsky-Korsakov edition:
First performance: St Petersburg (Conservatoire), 10 December 1896.
First UK performance: London (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane), 24 June 1913.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), 9 March 1917.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.

Background
Musorgsky’s epic historical opera was considered to be too radical and modern in his own day. He compromised on the dramatic side by adding the “Polish” act, complete with romantic interest and dance scenes. After his death, his friend Rimsky-Korsakov substantially recomposed the entire work with a more conservative orchestral sound. Boris is undoubtedly one of the greatest of Russian operas. It is debatable whether it would now be remembered without the substantial alterations by Rimsky which allowed it to hold the stage for over half a century. In recent years, Mussorgsky’s own version, usually edited by David Lloyd-Jones, with or without the Polish scenes, has gradually achieved supremacy, and Rimsky’s version can now be seen to have served its purpose. Its last performances by a British company were in 1974. Several classic recordings will still allow us to hear it in years to come. Scottish Opera’s staging used Musorgsky’s orchestration without the Polish act, and that act probably received its Scottish premiere from the Kirov in 1991.

Main Characters
Andrei Shchelkalov, a Boyar (baritone)
Prince Vasily Ivanovich Shuisky (tenor)
Boris Godunov (bass)
Pimen, a monk and chronicler (bass)
Grigory Otrepiev, a novice (tenor)
Marina Mniszek (mezzo-soprano)

Plot Summary
Tsar Ivan the Terrible died in 1584, and his associate, Boris, was appointed as Regent during the minority of Ivan’s elder son, Fyodor. A younger son, Dmitri, was murdered in 1591, and the young Tsar died in 1598, Boris then assumed the throne, at which point the opera commences. Several of the boyars conspire against Boris, and the people suffer in the harsh economic climate. Rumours arise that Boris had Dmitri murdered, and Grigory, influenced by Pimen, leaves his monastery and pretends to be the dead prince, supported by Marina’s Polish forces. Boris declines into madness and dies, while Russia descends into anarchy.

The Cast

Peasant Woman
 
Andrei Shchelkalov
 a Boyar, secretary to the Duma
Boris Godunov
 Tsar of Russia
Boyar
 in attendance
Chernikovsky
 a Jesuit
Deaf old man
 
First Peasant Woman
 
Frontier guard
 
Fyodor Tsarevitch
 son of Boris
Grigory Otrepiev
 a novice monk
Hostess
 at the inn
Jolly young man
 
Krushchov
 a Boyar
Lavitsky
 a Jesuit
Marina Mniszek
 a Polish princess, daughter of the Prince Palatine
Missail
 an itinerant monk
Mitiukha
 a peasant
Nikitich
 a police officer
Nurse
 to Xenia
Pimen
 a monk and chronicler
Rangoni
 a Jesuit, Papal Legate, and Marina's counsellor
Second Peasant Woman
 
Shuisky
 Prince Vasily Ivanovich Shuisky
Simpleton
 
Varlaam
 an itinerant monk
Xenia Tsarevna
 daughter of Boris

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