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Moussorgsky - Shostakovich

Boris Godunov (1868-72, orch.1939-40)

Duration: 202 minutes
Opera in four acts with prologue and ten scenes, edited and orchestrated by Shostakovich

Libretto by Moussorgsky, based on Alexander Pushkin's drama Boris Godunov and Nikolai Karamazin's History of the Russian Empire (R)

Scoring
2S,2M,A,4T,Bar,7B; chorus 3(III=picc).2.3(III=corA).2.Ebcl.bcl.3(III=dbn)-4.3.3.1-timp.perc:tgl/SD/cyms/BD/gong/glsp/t.bells/xyl/cel-2-4harp-pft-balalaikas and domras (opt)-strings On-stage band: 2-4Bbcornets.4tpt.3-6hn.2-4BbBarSaxhn.2-4BSaxhn This work is represented by Boosey & Hawkes in the UK, British Commonwealth (excluding Canada), Republic of Ireland, mainland China, Korea and Taiwan This work is represented by Boosey & Hawkes in the UK, British Commonwealth (excluding Canada) and the Republic of Ireland.
Abbreviations (PDF).


Territory
This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the UK, countries of the Commonwealth (excluding Canada) and the Republic of Ireland.



World Premiere
2/8/1874
Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg
Company: Kirov Opera



World premiere of version
11/4/1959
Kirov Theatre of Opera and ballet, Leningrad
Ivan Shlepyanov, director
Conductor: Sergei Yeltsin
Company: Kirov Opera

Roles

BORIS GODUNOVBass
FYODOR, his sonMezzo Soprano
XENIA, his daughterSoprano
THE OLD NURSEContralto
PRINCE SHUISKYTenor
ANDREY CHELKALOV, clerk of the DumaBaritone
PIMEN, monk and chroniclerBass
THE PRETENDER DMITRI, called GrigoryTenor
MARINA MNISHEK, a Polish PrincessSoprano
RANGONI, a JesuitBass
VARLAAM, a vagabondBass
MISSAIL, a vagabondTenor
THE HOSTESS OF THE INNMezzo Soprano
NIKITICH (MICHAEL), constableBass
THE SIMPLETONTenor
TWO JESUITS2 Basses


Time and Place
1598-1605, Russia and Poland


Synopsis
Boris Godunov, the regent of the young Tsar Fyodor, has arranged the assasination of  the Tsar's half-brother and heir Dmitri, in order to seize power. When the Tsar himself dies Boris pretends to decline the crown, but his agents incite the Muscovite crowd to acclaim him as the new Tsar. Though racked with guilt, Boris is crowned. In the monastery of Chudov an old monk Pimen is writing a chronicle of Russia. He tells his novice Grigory of the history surrounding Boris, and Grigory resolves to avenge the murdered Dmitri. Leaving the monastery Grigory claims to be the dead Tsarevich and with two vagabond friars Varlaam and Missail escapes across the border into Lithuania. In his Kremlin rooms Boris learns of the pretender. His councillor Shuisky aims to reassure him by recounting the murder of Dmitri but this throws Boris into a state of hallucination.

In Poland, Grigory's lover Marina dreams of becoming tsarina and her Jesuit confessor Rangoni exhorts her to support the Catholic cause. Marina joins Grigory in a moonlit rendezvous and she drives him forward with his ambitions. The boyars hold an emergency meeting in the council hall in Moscow and Shuisky describes the Tsar's unstable mental state, confirmed when Boris enters. Pimen arrives to describe a miraculous cure performed at the tomb of Dmitri, causing the Tsar to collapse. Boris bids farewell to his son, prays for Russia, and dies. In the Kromy forest the people are in disordered revolt against Boris but rally behind Grigory's call to follow him to Moscow. A simpleton is left behind bewailing the fate of the Russian people.


Repertoire Note
A reorchestration of Musorgsky’s opera of 1868-72 for stage performance.  In four acts with a prologue.

Just before World War ll Shostakovich set about reorchestrating one of his favourite works in Russian music, Musorgsky’s mighty opera ‘Boris Godunov’. He was prompted to do this by dissatisfaction both with Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous version (which he considered unfaithful to Musorgsky) and with Musorgsky’s original scoring (which he considered too weak orchestrally).

The result is a third, quite different vision of this piece, starker and bleaker than Rimsky, tougher and more sonorous than Musorgsky. It is a vision which deserves to be heard as a powerful work of operatic imagination in its own right.

Note by Gerard McBurney


Moods
Dramatic


Subjects
History, Politics, Society





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