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  »  New  How Mussorgsky should sound!..  A lethargic play?...  Musical Discussions  Forum     15  64611  03-12-2006
10-09-2004 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,407
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 1
Post ID: 192
Reply to: 192
Opera “Boris Godunov”

My friends, considering my heritage, frequently ask me about my suggestions regarding “Boris Godunov” and I decided to compile a little and highly opinioned (no surprised here!) “surviving guide” about this opera.

It is well-known and well-told story about the composition and numerous revisions of “Boris Godunov”. I personally have no problems with the original version or with the Rimsky-Korsakov alternations, however I violently oppose the Shostakovich’s version, which I found was unspeakable garbage. BTW, it is not well known but Rachmaninoff wrote on “Boris Godunov” but it was not his interpretation of the Mussorgsky but his own music. The Rachmaninoff’s “Boris” itself is on the very same libretto and it is VERY interesting but unfortunately I so love the Mussorgsky work that to it really shadows what Rachmaninoff’s did. If you are interested in the Rach’s “Boris” then search for Gusman with Bolshoi performance from 1964.

Now, about my biases. I’m not just like “Boris Godunov”. I sincerely consider Mussorgsky is a one of the most naturally gifted and talented composers ever lived. It is shame thaat he left so little music… (Please, do not confuse Mussorgsky’s music with the hoipolloi Revel’s sonic leisure).I feel that “Boris Godunov” is an absolute pinnacle of not only of Russian musicality or world mutuality but the entire Russian and humane culture. Some of the musical phrases and moments that exist in “Boris Godunov” (not to mention the stunning libretto of Pushkin - pretty much a godfather of Russian cultural and artistic language) set “Boris Godunov”, as I see it,  far apart from anything even was written and composed in dramatic music. Anyhow, considering my recommendations I would like you to understand that I paranoiacly admire this opera and I might speak Russian.
 
Here are some "Boris Godunovs" that you might consider, listed without any particular order:

1) Boris performed by Russian basso Chaliapin, who almost re-created this opera and whoever was done after Chaliapin just followed and in a way imitated him. Chaliapin did a number of recordings: Steinmann-Paris-1931, Steinmann -London-1931 (both with a Russian chorus), Semenov-Moskow-1910/1911, Coates-London-1925, Belleza-London-1928. All of them are slightly different in performance, intensity of drama and recording quality but all of them unquestionably worth attention. There is none of the recordings of the full opera with Chaliapin. (There` is only approximately 75% of all acts) and all that you might get would be 6-7 separate arias with Chaliapin doing Boris, Pimen and Varlam. Be advised that listening Chaliapin will be just great singing but it will be not the complete experience of "Boris Godunov” opera itself. For the entire opera you should look somewhere else… The recording media… All known to me issue of Chaliapin's Godunov on LP vary form a very poor do the unspeakable garbage. There are some transfers forms 78 to CD more or less successful, there is a guy in St, Petersburg who threatens to release a good transfer of Chaliapin's Boris but I did not hear the result yet. The best I ever heard was an old EMI release in 1987 in their serial “Great Recording of the Century”. This disc is long gone and it is quite a commodity now, good luck to find it. (CDH 7610092)

2) Golovanov conducting Bolshoi with Pirogov, Khanaiev, Mikhailov, Nelepp, Maksakova, Kruglikova, Koslovsky - 1949. This is a very high quality studio recording with magnificent Russian cast and with an extraordinal conductor on the podium. Everything in there is wonderful: from the stunning Koslovsky's performance of the Simpleton to the cantor-like psychedelic choruses. The same year Golovanov with the same cast and orchestra but with different leading basso (Mark Reizen instead Alexander Pirogov) performed "Boris Godunovs" live. This is also an interesting performance in many ways similar to the studio version. From a certain perspective (not from all perspectives) I like it even better… Media-wise, the Russian’s, even the late LP pressings from 70s of this work are fine (D05836-05843). The contemporary CD transfers (practically British or Russians) are OK as well.

3) Karajan conducting Vienna in 1971 with Vienna State Opera Chorus, Sofia Radio Chorus and with Dobranova, Markov, Heppe, Talvela, Maslenikov, Milijakovic, Vishnevska and with Ghiaurov as Boris. This is from many perspectives is an absolutely unique performance. Karajan generally sucks in Slave music, big time suck but here he did something absolutely spectacular. He conducted Mussorgsky in the way in which should be conducted Wagner only he added into "this Wagner” the Russki’s craziness and wildness. The result turned to be nothing less then phenomenal. Singers did very well as well and what is astonishing that many non-Russian singers did actually more interesting job then their native Russian colleges. The quality or recording is very high, perfect mixing and very tasteful and smart micing of singers, choruses and orchestra. It is available in London OSA 1439. The CD transfers it very fine as well.

4) Issay Dobrowen condacting Parish National with Choeurs Russes de Paris in 1952 with Christoff, Zareska,  Bielecki, Gedda, Borg…  Quite good performance with superb mono sound. I love what Dobrowen and his orchestra does. However the Choruses are sometimes totally off the wall… However, all together it is still quite good performance… (RCA LMHV6403)

5) Melik-Pashaev conducting Bolshoi with Russian cast and Chorus and Gorge London singing Boris. This is generally is not successful performance by suddenly Melik-Pashaev, totally out of blue, jumps with some VERY interesting “solutions”. Under normal circumstances I would not recomend this recording but it might be interesting for somebody who “cares”. (Columbia M4S 696)

6) Andre Cluyetens conducting Paris Conservatory and Sofia Notational Opera Chorus in 1963 with Alexieva, Lanigan, lear, Ouzounov and Boris Cristoff singing Boris, Pimen and Varlam. I would not specifically distinct this performance but Boris Cristoff does in here very good job (Angel 3633)

There are many other "Boris Godunovs". Among the honorable mentioned I would name slightly “soft” Claudio Abbado with Berlin Philharmonic in 1993, high-pressure but low potency Georgiev’s both performances of Mussorgsky and Rimsky versions, Georgiev’s soundtrack to the film, the Fedoseev’s  “sometimes strange” performance in 1981,  very good Nebolsin with Bolshoi, the “national performance” of Semkow’s in 1976 with… Polish orchestra, surprisingly pleasant Rostropovich with National Symphony and Raimondi in 1987, “ever-day’s” Kitaenko’s performance with Danish Radio, “lost but still more or less OK” Baranovich with Belgrade on Decca, Nikolai Berezovsky with Victor Symphony in 1945-46… If you are desperately wiling to get “Boris…”  in "your" languages then there is a version in Italian by Emil Cooper in 1946 and in German from 60s (do not remember by who).

Anyhow, I think my little run over “Borises…” is done. This would give you an OK start into the Mussorgsky’s musical rollercoaster. Ii's really worth it…

Rgs,
Romy the caT




"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
05-11-2006 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,407
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 2
Post ID: 2399
Reply to: 192
LYS’s Boris Godunov: you never know.

I stopped by today during my lunch at my local “loony Tunes” and suddenly stumbled upon a LYS reissue (via the Dante Production) of Golovanov’s 1948 Boris Godunov. (LYS 349-351)

I have mentioned this performance above. It is a studio recoding where Golovanov leads Bolshoy orchestra and chorus, only Tsar Boris sang not by Alexander Pirogov but by Mark Reizren. It is a famous performance. I have a few CD of it, from different companies and a few LF sets, including the original Russian pressing from begging of 50s. The fun part that this time the French folks did a phenomenal transfer and those CDs are way better sonically then even my LPs. The LYS looks like released the 3-CD box set in the end of the 90s. The booklet is very intelligent, I would say the booklet is superb; the sound quality is the best I have heard for this performance and the singers, the singers are as good as good as it could be among the Russians form the times when Russian singers still sounded like Russians and did not sound like they sing in back-translation from English….. 

The miserable French people deserver applauds…
Romy the Cat


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
05-12-2006 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,407
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 3
Post ID: 2400
Reply to: 2399
Boris Godunov 1948: the singers

I was listening today the Bolshoy 1948 production on LYS twice. What the beauty. As the tribute to this performance I am posting articles about the singers who did the “Boris Godunov” with Golovanov in 1948. The Articles are courtesy to writing staff of  of "Voice of Russia". The "Voice of Russia" is a state radio company that has been broadcasting for foreign audiences since October 29, 1929. As of date, it broadcasts in Russian and 31 foreign languages. 

ALEXANDER PIROGOV

 …There is a small island lost amid the wide expanses of the Oka river. It’s called A Bear’s Head. It’s an angler’s paradise in summer and Alexander and his four brothers spent all their days there singing the happily nonchalant boys’ songs as they fished. 
“These guys are going to be singers all, that’s for sure…” the local villagers smiled.
“Why singers?” objected the others. “Their grandfather had a low voice that sounded like a bell and the dad was a great singer too… He never made it on stage, though, and is still working as a carpenter….”
And still, four out of the five brothers eventually became professional singers with the youngest, Alexander, becoming the most successful of them all…
“At the age of 15, I suddenly lost my voice,” Alexander Pirogov recalled. “It was down to some husky mumble and there was nothing I could do about it… One day, as I was walking down our school corridor, I saw a group of classmates gathered near the wall and laughing. Walking up closer, I saw a piece of paper hanging on the wall showing a funny little guy in tails, his mouth gaping open. The next moment I realized it was me!  There was a note under the whole thing going like this: “A voiceless bass. World tour. A closing concert to be held in front of a local barn at Novoselky.” I burst out laughing too, but I would rather cry my eyes out, you know… Then I saw our teacher walking up to me. “I’ll meet you at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, he said. I’m sure that, some day, you will be singing there…”
His words miraculously came true and, ten years later, I was already a lead singer there. I wish my teacher lived to see that…”
Without a fine bass, Russian opera just isn’t happening and after Fyodor Chaliapin had emigrated, the Bolshoi was left high and dry without a good bass singer to fill the void… Small wonder that the talented young singer was very welcome there and entrusted the very challenging parts of Ivan Susanin, General Gremin, Ivan the Terrible and the old Miller… Added to the traditional roster of Russian classics were modern operas and European masterpieces like Faust by Charles Gounod where he learned Mephistopheles’ part in a matter of just two weeks then moving on to take up Don Basilio’s part in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. In 1929, the 30 year-old bass singer premiered performing the part of Boris Godunov in Modest Mussorgsky’s opera of the same name. 
Even though the premiere received glowing reviews, Alexander was not entirely satisfied and kept working on until, 20 years later, he offered an absolutely inimitable performance in a new rendition of one of the best Russian operatic classics. It was amazing how easily this scion of a peasant family imitated his character’s regal carriage and slow and imposing speech…
Alexander Pirogov owes the flourishing of his great talent primarily to his workaholic attitude and to his obsession with music,” Boris Godunov’s producer, Boris  Pokrovsky  later recalled. “After all those years of singing Boris’ part, he would come out again and again singing at full throttle, both physically and emotionally. He was a real workaholic and his rehearsals often went well into the night. And the result is tell-telling too!” 
For his masterful performance of Boris Godunov, Alexander Pirogov was awarded the country’s highest Stalin Prize and, invited to take part in a film version of the great opera. When they took the film to an international film festival in Venice, Pirogov was there and, even though Boris Godunov received no awards, the Italian film academy coined a special medal in Pirogov’s honor and local newspapers hailed him as the festival’s biggest sensation…”
Alexander Pirogov shone on the Bolshoi’s stage for a staggering 30 years but he was never carried away with success and always showed up hours before the curtain went up, made himself up, and, fully dressed, headed for the stage chatting with the workers and just walking around humming under his nose, lost in thought…
He was everyone’s darling, admired by all for his friendliness, modesty, hard work and, of course, his larger-than-life talent. During his 30-year stint with the Bolshoi, he came out on stage more than a thousand times singing in 43 operas!
Marking his 30th anniversary with Russia’s premier theater in 1954, Alexander Pirogov said he was calling it quits. His colleagues wondered why should someone want to leave now than his voice sounded with such young vigor and freshness…
“It’s time to make way for the young,” Alexander said. “Just give me a call whenever you need me and I’ll be there…”
He retired to his hometown on the Oka river only getting back to Moscow for an occasional operatic appearance and, more often, singing in concerts, fleshing out his new passion for chamber music…
In 1964 the Bolshoi Opera was preparing for their first ever performance on stage of Milan’s venerable La Scala Theater. The tour was opening with Boris Godunov and Pirogov was the natural choice for the opera’s main character.  He happily accepted the offer and, relaxing on his Oka river island in June, was filling the air with powerful low-end rumbles rehearsing for the Milan premiere…
…On June 25 the air was sizzling hot and it was only after dark that he finally left home heading towards the riverbank. As usual, he scooped up a handful of Oka water and, kissing it, took a plunge. Coming home, he took a nap only to be awakened in the dead of night by severe heartache. His son rushed towards the boat to fetch the doctor but when they got back, it was already too late…
…There is a small island lost amid the sprawling expanses of the Oka River. A mighty boulder rises up in front of a small wooden house. An inscription on its face says that the outstanding Russian singer Alexander Pirogov died here on June 26, 1964...
A steamship bearing his name has been shuttling up and down the river for many years now and each time she sails past the Bear’s Head island, she slows down and gives out a long whistle. Hearing the sound, locals say: “It’s our Pirogov singing out there…” 

MARK REIZEN

…On June 3, 1985 the Bolshoi was offering their umpteenth presentation of Tchaikovsky’s Yevgeny Onegin opera. Even though the cast featured the very best singers the Bolshoi could offer, the audience just couldn’t wait for the final act where the part of General Gremin was to be sung by the formidable Mark Reizen who was turning 90 years old that night …
Tall, elegant and handsome as ever, despite his almost unbelievable age, Reizen was absolutely irresistible in uniform…
Out of stage he was equally larger than life, a towering figure whose regal carriage never betrayed his humble beginnings as a son of a struggling coalminer who, as a 19-year-old young man went to the frontlines and spent a whole three years there awarded a St.George’s Cross for his valiant service to the nation.  Three years later, seriously wounded and contused, he was decommissioned with a slim chance of survival but lived another 70 years winning every imaginable Soviet decoration. 
 Mark Reizen’s first brush with music came when he, then a technology student, was asked by a friend to keep him company during entrance examinations to the local Conservatory.  Reizen obliged and it just so happened that his friend flunked the exam and Mark was admitted, even without documents.  “I need none of this!” he argued, “Am I going to be a singer or something, after all these years of fighting at the frontlines?”
And still, his voice finally had the upper hand forcing him to quit the Technology Institute just a few months before graduation and enter the Conservatory. Still a student there, he became a lead operatic singer in Kharkov.
Three years later Mark Reizen was already in Leningrad singing at the former Mariinsky Theater.  He was awed by the beauty of the Northern Venice as many called Russia’s second capital, its magnificent palaces, museums and theaters.  The very hall of the Mariinsky Theater, giant and shining with gold, was absolutely mind-boggling. Leningrad was truly a dream city he had always desired with all his heart…
Once he was invited to sing at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and saw Josef Stalin sitting in the box, right next to the stage.  During the interval he was summoned to meet the dictator.
“I like your voice very much and from this day on you are singing in the Bolshoi,” Stalin said point blank.
Surprised, Reizen mumbled excuses saying that he had an apartment in Leningrad and that his family also lived there…
“Tomorrow they will give you an apartment here in Moscow  and you  can move in there with your family…” Stalin parried.
The following day Reizen was shown his new residence, which, in fact, was a sprawling mansion whose size literally flabbergasted the young singer.  Reizen why don’t they give him a smaller place and settled in a two-room flat, which he eventually traded for the biggest one he could possibly get in the Soviet Union. 
Reizen had a love-hate relationship with Stalin. A music buff, Stalin appreciated the singer’s beautiful and powerful voice but he never got over his deep-seated dislike for Jews.  The dictator believed that a person with a Jewish name should not play Russian national heroes. That’s why Reizen did not take part in the first night performance of  Mikhail Glinka’s Ivan Susanin and Mussorgsky’s Khovanschina and was only allowed to join in at a later date.  Reizen’s larger than life talent immediately put the rest on the back burner though and Stalin eventually was forced to bestow on him the country’s highest awards, including three Stalin prizes.
Mark Reizen was hailed as one of the best performers of Boris Godunov in Modest Mussorgsky’s opera of the same name and the regal gait he mustered so well enacting the 16th century Russian Czar eventually became part and parcel of his inner self.
Buoyed by his nationwide success, Reizen was now looking down on his colleagues, producers and conductors. People simply feared him, and with pretty good reason too, because the singer was now a pal of the all-powerful Culture Minister and was rumored to have had a hand in the firing of the Bolshoi’s conductor he didn’t like.
Reizen was not an easy man to get along with, hating familiarity and despising lickspittles.  The young conductor Boris Pokrovsky somehow managed to find a key to the maestro’s heart making him work as hard as he possibly could.  The effort stood Reizen in very good stead though, resulting in a veritable constellation of excellent productions, including the role of the murderous Czar Boris… 
 
     Just like most other Soviet artists, Mark Reizen rarely traveled abroad. Once, years before, he toured several European countries creating a big stir in London and sending people on their feet in Monte Carlo. After one such performance there he dropped by a local casino and lost everything.  He never ever gambled again…
The next time he left Russia was a whole 20 years later. The aging bass created a furor with a series of  sold-out performances in Eastern Europe.
The human voice is one of the biggest mysteries one can think of. Only a chosen few enjoy the God-given ability to sing beautifully and one can only wonder why some singers see their voice dying out after 15 or 20 years of hard work while others keep singing with youthful ease and vigor after a whole fifty years of regular stage appearances.
Treasured as he did his priceless vocal chords, Mark Reizen still realized one day that his voice was beginning to crack. He immediately cut back on performances and consulted with the best doctors around but the crack was still there…
Reizen quit the Bolshoi and started teaching at the conservatory but quickly realized that teaching was definitely not his cup of tea. Little by little, he started singing again and even learned some new arias. One day, listening to a recording he had just made, he was surprised to see that the crack was gone and his voice sounded just the way it did years ago. Reizen recorded a couple of old Russian love songs for the radio and was pretty happy with the result.  Shortly after, he recorded a whole LP of such songs and, five years later, another one. People just couldn’t believe that Reizen was an 80 year-old man now!
At 90, Mark Reizen came out for the last time on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater where he had sung all the leading bass parts. That night his General Gremin sang once again that “All ages are to love submissive…”
He died just three years before marking his centennial birthday… 

MAXIM MIKHAILOV

…On a warm sunny day in 1929 a small Moscow church was packed to capacity just like it always was because, despite the Soviet authorities’ ruthless crackdown on religion, people kept flocking in to pray and listen to the amazingly powerful voice of the archdeacon, which easily snuffed out the candle lights. That day was different though. Two men walked up to the archdeacon and asked him to follow them to a car waiting outside.  Everyone believed it was an arrest because priests were being taken away everywhere else in the country...
   The archdeacon obediently got into the car preparing for the worst and was very much surprised when, a short while later, the car parked outside the radio committee where he was eagerly awaited by the committee’s director and the Culture Minister Anatoly Lunacharsky himself.  Without beating about the bush, Lunacharsky offered the man the job of a lead singer with the State Radio. 
    The archdeacon’s wife almost backed out seeing her husband walking in sans his trademark beard, with a crew cut and donning a regular suit instead of the black cassock he usually wore. “I’m an artist now!” he announced visibly satisfied with his newly acquired status.
   The sound engineers at the radio just didn’t know what to do with the new singer’s voice, which was blowing out the mikes and overdriving the gear. 
   Maxim Mikhailov, that was the former archdeacon’s name, found it pretty hard adjusting to his new specialty. The son of a peasant with only two years of elementary school education behind his back, he now had a hard time learning to read music. And still, the 36 year-old man plunged himself fully into work and just a few months later he could easily sing from paper…
   Three years later Mikhailov was invited to the Bolshoi Theater. Doubting that they would admit a music-illiterate to the company of the country’s best music theater, Mikhailov still ventured to an audition.
   “…I entered the hall all resplendent in red velvet and was literally overwhelmed by the shining gold of the balconies and boxes and the glitter of the crystal chandeliers,” Maxim Mikhailov later recalled. “The hall seemed so giant, stretching out forever. When they put down the lights I was scared by the place’s ominous darkness. I stepped back and came hard against a grand piano that was standing behind me.  Feeling its reassuring hardness, I thought I would never be able to fill out that giant space and so I should sing as loud as I possibly could. I did just that and they told me to stop hollering and keep my voice a bit down. I sighed and, now knowing full well they would kick me out, started to sing again…”
    As you might have already guessed, Maxim was admitted and that very same year he also entered the Moscow Conservatory. Already a 39 year-old man surrounded by 18 year-olds, he still worked very hard combining his studies with a busy operatic schedule. Never asking for indulgence, he still managed to do it all wowing his listeners and professors alike.
   At the Bolshoi Maxim Mikhailov started out small immediately standing out from the rest.  His first serious stage effort was the part of Khan Konchak in Alexander Borodin’s opera Prince Igor.
   “Maxim Mikhailov was born to play this part,” said a glowing review, “Stumpy and heavily-built, the man looks like a mighty oak tree and with the makeup on, he comes off as a true-blue Polovtsy Khan with sly eyes like slits and protruding cheekbones. His rumbling bass goes down and down telling about Konchak’s sword, which has spilt so much enemy blood… And when he sings about the deadly horror its hardened steel wreaked on everyone its sends shivers running down your spine…”
 The new singer quickly caught on with the concert-going public and even the all-powerful dictator Josef Stalin who was a frequent guest at the Bolshoi.  Stalin often invited Mikhailov over to his box and they talked at length about music and life. Stalin liked this honest and square man and eventually started to invite him to the Kremlin.  At times the telephone started ringing in the dead of night with a politely official voice telling the singer they had sent out a car to him.  Mikhailov obediently got dressed and went down… Stalin liked sitting up late and the singer often kept him company during those long vigils.  Stalin poured himself some red wine and a glass of vodka for Mikhailov and they just sat there together talking the night away. During those longs chats, Mikhailov would often ask the dictator to help his less well-off colleagues but he never once asked anything for himself…
   Stalin was especially fond of Mikhailov’s rendition of Ivan Susanin, the main character of Mikhail Glinka’s classic opera of the same name. And with pretty good reason too because in Mikhailov’s dramatization, the ordinary 17th century Russian peasant came off as a symbol of patriotism and selfless service to his county.  Singing Susanin for the first time in 1939, Maxim Mikhailov ultimately ended his stage career singing this very same character during his last stage appearance in 1957 bringing to nearly 400 total number of time he sang Susanin during those 18 long years…
    The old-timers at the Bolshoi still remember how unbelievably generous he was sometimes giving almost all his monthly salary to a needy friend.  Moreover, Mikhailov never remembered the names of his debtors and always surprised when they paid him back. “Come on, it was a present, not a loan!” he would say giving the money back…
    People say he never lived in his Moscow apartment spending all his spare time in his country home just outside the city tending to his kitchen garden and small animal farm and cutting firewood for his stove he would never ever trade for central heating. He also had a bathhouse there he always fired himself. He liked sweating there, walking barefoot on the snow and drinking ice-cold milk from the cellar, which only made his voice stronger and louder...
    They say that before coming out on stage, Mikhailov downed a small glass of vodka eating it down with a self-pickled cucumber he kept inside an inner pocket of his magnificent tux.
     People say he never sang at home only doing it out in the street whenever he felt like singing…
    The very moment his powerful voice started reverberating across the village, silence fell everywhere with the parents immediately cutting short their frolicking kids saying: “There is Maxim Dormidontovich Mikhailov singing out there, can’t you hear?” 

GEORGY NELEPP

“…Excuse me, any extra tickets to the Bolshoi?”
    “No, I fear not. Frankly speaking, I don’t even know what they are having there tonight. All I know is that it’s the third time they are asking me for an extra ticket today…”
“Georgy Nelepp is singing in Sadko tonight…”
“I see… Small wonder there is such a fuss going on. I don’t think you have any chance of getting in tonight because all these opera buffs flock in from all around the city each time Nelepp sings Sadko…”
It looked as if Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov had exactly Georgy Nelepp in mind when he was writing the part of the legendary psaltery guzla-playing singer and traveler. Tall and well-built, a romantic shock of curly hair rising up above the chiseled features of his handsome face, Georgy Nelepp easily filled the Bolshoi’s giant hall with his free flowing voice.  What seemed such an easy blending with the original character was in fact the result of long and patient effort on the part of the singer…
“I spent so much time looking for the right gait, moves and behavior, Georgy Nelepp later admitted. I wanted my Sadko to be brisk-mannered, energetic and manly befitting the legendary seafarer, a daredevil with a purpose.  It was as if the image was growing with me…”
It was a free-flowing, majestic manner the singer used to render his character’s epic nature, never once sacrificing a single lyrical undertone of Rimsky-Korsakov’s score…
Georgy Nelepp started singing when he was still a kid – a pretty traditional pastime in Ukraine where people sing their life away regardless of age.  He was 10 when World War One broke out and 14 when Russia was hit by a civil war.  A 15 year-old boy, he joined the Red Army and four years later, was sent out to Petrograd, now St.Petersburg, to study military topography there.  The conservatory was just two blocks away from the school and Georgy’s friends, who admired his voice so much, literally forced him to talk to the conservatory’s director Alexander Glazunov. 
Glazunov gave the young man a friendly welcome and asked him to sing something.
“You have a wonderful voice, the famous composer said after an hour-long audition. “You’ll make a fine singer, I’m sure about that…” 
Still in his second year at the conservatory, Nelepp was invited  to the Mariinsky Theater and in February 1929 he had his debut on the stage of one of Russia’s most famous music theaters. The well-known critic Ivan Sollertinsky was quick to appreciate the emerging new talent: 
“Hats off to the Mariinsky for acquiring such a wonderful singer and actor, he wrote in a rave review, Georgy Nelepp is a real Godsend to them and should be treated accordingly…” 
During his 15-year stint with the Mariinsky, Georgy Nelepp sang the lead parts in operas by Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Rossini and Verdi, always working hard and quickly learning new parts.  He loved modern repertoire excelling in the portrayal of larger-than-life heroes…
Which was in especially high demand during the war years when patriotically tinged operas made up the bulk of the Mariinsky repertoire…
In 1944 when the heady smell of a much-awaited victory was already in the air, the Bolshoi Opera, already back in Moscow from evacuation, was auditioning new singers to boost their lineup. Georgy Nelepp, already a well-established name in the country, was invited to join in without any preliminary audition. Which he did quickly establishing himself as one of their very best singers but never looking down on anyone and working hard like he always did. 
Conductor Arii Pazovsky recalled how he once asked Nelepp if he ever argued with the conductors and producers during rehearsals.
“First of all I listen hard to them trying to figure out what they want, Nelepp said.  Then, I gradually start putting things together and as soon as I have the general idea of what I’m going to do, then the real arguing begins…”
“And how often do you have to retreat?”
“A la guerre come a la guerre, as they say… If you see you are wrong, there is no harm in stepping back. Sometimes I fight tooth and nail before I back off, you know…”
This is exactly what happened when he was rehearsing Florestan in Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven.  Conductor Alexander Melik-Pashayev who was preparing the opera’s premiere at the Bolshoi was in seventh heaven  extolling Nelepp’s progress. The German conductor Herman Abernot who steered the orchestra through one of Fidelio’s presentations in Moscow in October 1954, was equally ecstatic about Nelepp’s performance:
“Nelepp’s Florestan is one of the best I’ve ever heard and seen in my whole life! With Galina Vishnevskaya singing Leonora, they made an absolutely unforgettable duet…”
Galina Vishnevskaya, one of Nelepp’s all time stage favorites, thought very highly of him as a singer but, like many of her colleagues, tried to stay away from him in everyday life.  In her book, Vishnevskaya writes that after the truth about Stalin’s crimes finally came out in 1956 and the victims of Stalinist terror started coming back from the GULAG, an elderly woman once came to the Bolshoi and said she wanted to have a word with Georgy Nelepp.  When he came up to the woman, she slapped him in the face calling him a traitor. She said that Nelepp was one of the most hard working secret police informants around, contributing to the arrest of many innocent people…
In one of his “Little Tragedies” the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin said that “Villainy and genius are two things that never go together” but sometimes it seems that this is not necessarily true…
They say that people with a bad conscience never live long. Georgy Nelepp’s heart stopped beating when he was only 53… 

MARIA MAKSAKOVA

August 14, 1974. A small public garden in front of the Bolshoi in Moscow...
“What’s going on? It’s sweltering summer, the season is long over but there is a crowd of people with bouquets of flowers in hand thronging the theater’s main entrance…”
 “Today’s Maria Maksakova’s funeral, a legendary singer she was…”
 “Maria Maksakova? The name rings a bell… Guess she had a wonderful voice, right?”
 “Not exactly… She was not the very best they had there at the Bolshoi… She was an inimitable actress though… If you saw her once on stage you would never forget her. Her Carmen is still fresh on my mind! There was a mischievous barefooted Gypsy girl running out on stage. Just the way a young tobacco factory girl should look like, stuffing cigars, hanging out with smugglers and driving young men crazy with love… The following day she was already Marina Mnisek, the ambitious Polish adventuress out to ascend the Russian throne… Looking at her you understood that with a woman like her, a runaway monk could easily become a Prince.  I still remember their duet in Boris Godunov…”
Maria Maksakova was a real heartthrob, with that kind of Slavic beauty which is so charming without being incinerating… A perfect face with chiseled features and shining eyes.  She was so gentle, warm and vulnerable, always smiling and her laughter so contagious… Small wonder she was everybody’s darling…
Maria was born and spent her child years in Astrakhan, an old merchant town in southern Russia where the Volga empties into the Caspian Sea.  The family, which lived from hand to mouth, could not afford sending the girl to a music school, but she compensated the lack of formal education by singing in a church choir where her high, crystal-clear, voice immediately caught on with the churchgoers.  It was there that she attracted the attention of Maximilian Maksakov, a respected vocals teacher who started working with her patiently but very demandingly always coming up with some funny adage to spur his talented disciple’s occasionally fading interest making her work at full steam again.
Maria’s progress was absolutely phenomenal and she made the operatic debut when she was still sweet sixteen – an all-time record in a business where singers normally hit the stage at the age of 20 or even 25… Her success was so resounding that, before very long, she was already entrusted major operatic parts. After a five-year stint in Astrakhan, Maria headed straight to the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. Having no formal musical education, she feared they would send her away, but the jury unanimously voted to take her onboard…
 Maria was in seventh heaven: “What’s going on? I can’t believe it!” The next moment she was troubled again: “They will throw me out after the very first time I sing here…”
 They didn’t throw her out and neither did they after the second and third time. Maria Maksakova spent a whole 30 years singing at the Bolshoi…
 From the wealth of the leading part she sang at the Bolshoi, Maria Maksakova loved most the part of Marfa from the opera Khovanshchina by Modest Mussorgsky. Marfa epitomized strong spirit, independence, intelligence, selflessness and love – human traits Maksakova always went for.  A pious nun abandoned by her loved one, Marfa is a strong personality capable of overcoming her frustration and morally help those seeking refuge in faith…
 Maksakova came out on stage all in black but even so she was breathtakingly beautiful and gracious, as if floating in the air… Her singing was deep, filled with magic and changing from scene to scene. Her intonation was amazingly flexible underscoring her wonderful ability to single out the right words, and take her time filling the rests with profound meaning all adding up to a powerful image…
 Maria Maksakova was an ultimately Russian singer. Her timbre and intonation were so genuinely Russian that it was only natural that she fit so perfectly into the Russian classical format, especially when it came to portraying strong characters that gave such ample credit to her unique talent of a dramatic actress.
 The Bolshoi’s lead singers loved partnering with Maksakova on stage because she had that rare ability to feel her partner and latch onto his state of mind. No matter how important her own part, Maksakova never tried to be overbearing, like many other operatic divas often tend to do. She always cared for the whole picture, always ready to take the back seat to highlight her partner…
 Quite interestingly, she never backed off from partnering on stage with beginner singers, always ready to help out. If the lineup was up to the mark, however, there was absolutely no stopping her from showcasing her high class…
 The ultimate artist who just could not live without the stage, the curtains and the audience, Maria Maksakova was never at home in the recording studio though… 
 “How come I sing so awfully bad?!” she gasped listening to a recording she had just made. “What shall I do to get into the groove?” The musicians kept telling her it was alright and they could now move on, but Maksakova implored them to make another cut which she didn’t like either…
 Unfortunately, she left behind just a handful of recordings all failing to give justice to her inimitable singing… She was equally good singing in operas and in concert, her inborn artistry helping her infuse even the tiniest part with that very special atmosphere that was all her own… Two or three minutes was all she needed to bring out the inner meaning of what she sang…
 Idolized by her listeners and always surrounded by courting fans, the beautiful and friendly Maksakova rarely left theater without heaps of flowers showered on her by admirers. There was always some relative staying at her place and friends never missed a welcome chance to enjoy her big-hearted hospitality…
 Maksakova was a model mother too spending much time with her daughter, Lyudmila – a highly driven and talented girl. Sent by her doting mother to the Conservatory’s prestigious Central Music School in Moscow, she eventually opted for a different career becoming a brilliant drama actress even though she often sings on stage and sings pretty well indeed…
 Maria Maksakova’s talent lives on in her granddaughter, Maria who graduated from the singers’ department of the Gnessins Music Academy and now sings at the Gelikon Opera in Moscow.  So far, she looks a far cry from her great grandmother, but living legends don’t come along every year, do they?…

IVAN KOZLOVSKY

…People coming to the Conservatory Big Hall in Moscow during the Seventies and Eighties could often see a handsome white-haired patriarch sitting regally in a box right next to the stage visibly enjoying the sound of violins, piano and orchestra. “Who’s this man?” wondered the younger listeners nodding in the direction of the old man whose aristocratic looks attracted everyone’s attention. 
“Ivan Kozlovsky, who else!” answered the more seasoned concertgoers, their respectful whisper reflecting their admiration for the living legend of Russian opera.
Like Italians, Ukrainians are singers all, especially those living in Maryanovka village whose church choir was famous far and wide. It was there that Ivan Kozlovsky honed his singing skills when he was a young man. His formal training took a mere two years, though, cut short by the outbreak of the Civil War and the young peasant boy was recruited to the Red Army. His voice stood him in very good stead when he joined the army engineers, first as a lead singer in a military band and later as a frontman with an amateur opera company.
At 24, Kozlovsky debuted on the professional stage with a rousing performance of the vocally challenging part of Faust. Two years later, already boasting a very impressive operatic repertoire, he showed up at the Bolshoi Theater literally blowing away the audition panel easily sailing through the highest notes of the register…
Always aware that he was king of the highs, Kozlovsky would take the highest note possible and hang on to it as he wished driving the listeners mad with his skill…
In 1926 Kozlovsky joined the Bolshoi company which was then ruled supreme by Leonid Sobinov. The young singer was mesmerized by the great tenor’s voice, mastery and artistic presentation emulating, at times purposefully, at times intuitively, his intonations  and movement making them part of his own style…
Sobinov kept a close eye on the budding young singer advising and helping him in every way. Once, during a benefit performance, Sobinov took Kozlovsky out on stage as if handing his legacy over to the young singer. Before long, Kozlovsky started winning kudos appearing in such trademark Sobinov parts as Romeo, Lensky and Lohengrin… In all, Kozlovsky sang in more than 50 operas during his 30 years with the Bolshoi... 
He became the darling of Moscow’s concert-going public before he even knew it… People were now flocking to his performances from all across the land. His followers were so numerous that they even set up a national fan club, the so-called “Kozlinists”. They knew absolutely everything about their idol and attended his every single performance.
After the second act of the Yevgeny Onegin opera, where Lensky dies in a duel, only a handful of people remained in the hall with the rest rushing towards the “personnel only” entrance to rain flowers on the man who played the part of that unfortunate romantic…
Basking in the giddying atmosphere of public adoration, Kozlovsky was often seen openly fishing for applause. After a well-done phrase he would start bowing prompting tumultuous applause from his followers. The opera then ground to a halt and would only pick up pace again when Kozlovsky wished it to.
Well, he was a living legend, and who we are to blame him for making an occasional use, or even abuse, of his godly status?
He was equally inimitable in concert pepping up every little piece with masterful attention to every tiny detail, every pause…
Some of the old Russian love songs are still best appreciated when listened to the way he sang them. Compared to his interpretations, everything else is simply not happening!
Being famous is not always good for the human character and Kozlovsky was no exception to this sad rule allowing himself to show up late for rehearsals and sometimes flunk them altogether. He brought his seasonal appearances down to just five or seven – a monthly rate for all the other lead singers. Worse, he was getting increasingly envious of his colleagues’ success and was much aided here by the Kozlinists who were now waging an all-out war against the followers of another famous Bolshoi tenor, Sergei Lemeshev…
Kozlovsky’s big-star arrogance was driving conductors and directors mad but if he really liked the material offered him he worked miracles making people immediately appreciate his larger-than-life caliber…  
That was exactly the case with the part of the God’s Fool in Modest Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov.  Initially unwilling to take up what he saw as something absolutely short on singing, he eventually worked it into one of the opera’s high points where the poor cripple spoke the mind of the Russian people…
Well, who else could dare to openly call Czar Boris a murderer and say he would never pray for a killer because Virgin Mary wouldn’t like that… 
Bolshoi’s old-timers still remember the threadbare rust-colored briefcase Kozlovsky always carried around as a talisman. 
He loved donning an embroidered skull-cap like the ones they wear in Central Asia. Asked why, he put on a disarming smile and said he just believed it suited him well…
Kozlovsky was a very generous man and lent a helping hand to many of his money-strapped colleagues…
Quitting after 30 years on stage of the country’s foremost music theater, Kozlovsky still kept making occasional appearances there also giving one-man shows, singing in concerts, directing and advising young singers even though he never taught regularly. 
In a sense, he was a slave to his voice. He never sang early in the morning saying the voice was still asleep.  He never ventured on stage when he felt even a little bit unwell. He never drank anything that was too cold or too hot, avoided spicy food and never talked out in the cold.
That’s probably why he managed to preserve almost intact his wonderful voice, which he showcased so potently singing during his 90th birthday celebration. 
They say that Ivan Kozlovsky considered his voice as his one and only possession and prayed every morning thanking the Lord for the priceless gift He gave him…

By Olga Fyodorova




"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
04-19-2007 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


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The maker of the “Russian Ark” does “Boris Godunov”!

A film director Alexander Sokurov, the Andrei Tarkovsky’s pupil, will direct the Bolshoi's new production of "Boris Godunov. In April 27".  I hope it will be proporly filmed and made available.

By Raymond Stults
Published: April 20, 2007

For its two new productions of opera this season, the Bolshoi Theater has turned to what are probably the most revered works in the entire Russian operatic repertoire, Pyotr Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" and Modest Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov." In each case, the new version replaces a production first created in the 1940s that has endeared itself over the years to countless operagoers both in Russia and abroad.

The new "Eugene Onegin" opened the current Bolshoi season last September, in a radically updated staging by Dmitry Chernyakov that angered many, but to others, myself included, provided as exciting an evening of opera as any to be seen and heard in Moscow.

Next Wednesday, the Bolshoi unveils its new "Boris Godunov." In an unusually bold move, the theater has entrusted the staging to eminent film director Alexander Sokurov, who has never before worked in any form of live theater.
 
Sokurov has declined to be interviewed in advance of the upcoming production. But in a brief written statement for the press, he declared that the theme of power in "Boris Godunov" didn't interest him. "There is nothing at all [in the production] about power," he said. "It's about people." It will take considerable skill to succeed with such an approach, considering that the opera's story, based on historical events as interpreted in a drama by Alexander Pushkin, chiefly concerns the descent of Tsar Boris from the heights of power to ultimate madness and death.

No doubt to reassure those who might be upset by a radically new staging, Sokurov went on to say that he and his team "won't be perpetrating a revolution ... because we well understand that we are operating within the boundaries of Russia's traditional national culture."

The new "Boris Godunov" will play under the baton of Bolshoi chief conductor and musical director Alexander Vedernikov. At a roundtable discussion last week with members of the press, he and Mussorgsky expert Yevgeny Levashev described the numerous forms in which "Boris Godunov" has come to exist, including the two versions composed by Mussorgsky himself and the revised and reorchestrated versions produced by the composer's close friend and colleague, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and subsequently by Dmitry Shostakovich.

Ever since the Bolshoi's second production of "Boris Godunov" at the beginning of the 20th century, its audiences have heard the opera played in the lush orchestral sounds applied to it by Rimsky-Korsakov. Now, in line with opera houses practically everywhere else in the world over the past few decades, the Bolshoi is turning to Mussorgsky's more austere original score, in the second, expanded version that formed the basis of the opera's very first performance, in 1874, at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg.

Next week's production of "Boris Godunov" will be the Bolshoi's sixth since the opera first appeared there in 1888. It supersedes the staging by Leonid Baratov, acted out against the imposing and historically accurate decor of Fyodor Fyodorovsky, that dates from 1948 and has enjoyed more than 400 performances over a span of six decades.

Many operagoers will no doubt mourn what may well be a permanent loss of the old production. But, as Vedernikov pointed out last week, attempting to maintain two widely differing versions of "Boris Godunov" in the repertoire would place an almost intolerable burden on the theater's musicians, and particularly on its chorus. Nevertheless, there will be at least one more chance for a look at the time-honored production of Baratov and Fyodorovsky -- not in Moscow, however, but at the Bolshoi's guest appearance this coming July at Finland's Savonlinna Opera Festival.


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
10-26-2008 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
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The San Francisco’s “Boris Godunov”
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The San Francisco Opera begins to run in War Memorial Opera House their new production of “Boris Godunov”. It is original Mussorgsky’s version and it might be interesting.

http://sfopera.com/o/268.asp

Does anybody know if the recording might become available? Does San Francisco Opera distribute local recording of this operas. Does San Francisco local FM stations (Classical 102.1 KDFC?) do good broadcasting of SF Opera, if so can anybody record a whole program for me?

The Cat


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
03-15-2009 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


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Modest Mussorgsky's 170 birthday
fiogf49gjkf0d
People who read my site know that I consider Mussorgsky as the most remarkable naturally talented composer among all composers guild. Next week it will be the Modest’s 170 birthday and my WGBH will broadcast Oliver Knussen leads Cleveland with Leopold Stokowski's "Boris Godunov" - Symphonic Synthesis, based on Boris Godunov. Wow, Stoky did the Godunov’s suites!!! I never knew it and it was what I also was pitching, claiming that it MUST to be composed. I am so enthusiastic to hear it as I have my own version! Did anybody hear the Stokowski's versions? Any recommendations for existing recordings. Did Stokowski's conduct his own orchestras with this work? I never was a fun of Stokowski's Mussorgsky and I am VERY fascinated what he did with Godunov.


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
04-26-2015 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
steverino
Posts 290
Joined on 05-23-2009

Post #: 7
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Interesting thread
fiogf49gjkf0d
Nice thread about old Boris. Like you I have no problem with R-K's version of the opera. Once Mussorgsky added the Polish scenes and all the romantic cooing he moved the opera into 19th C grand opera for which R-K was perfectly attuned and did a good job. If Mussorgsky had just kept the original version then I think R-K would have been more superfluous. The Karajan is surprisingly good. As you say everything went right. Essential. I also like the Dobrowen. The London and Melik Pashaev seem quite good to me and I guess I like it more than you. I think the Anarchy scene is particularly well done. The recording is a bit strange with a very distant or oddly mic'ed orchestra.

I will have to check out the Golavanov based on your recommendation. I always assumed it would be a terrible recording but you say it is good so I will get it. I haven't heard the Fedoseyev. Why do you call that a strange performance? It is sad that the original Mussorgsky version has never received the kind of performance that the R-K version got. I have never liked the Semkow, Abbado or Gergiev performances so Fedoseyev was sort of the last hope for the orginal version.
04-27-2015 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
steverino
Posts 290
Joined on 05-23-2009

Post #: 8
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Stokowski and Mussorgsky
fiogf49gjkf0d
 Romy the Cat wrote:
People who read my site know that I consider Mussorgsky as the most remarkable naturally talented composer among all composers guild. Next week it will be the Modest’s 170 birthday and my WGBH will broadcast Oliver Knussen leads Cleveland with Leopold Stokowski's "Boris Godunov" - Symphonic Synthesis, based on Boris Godunov. Wow, Stoky did the Godunov’s suites!!! I never knew it and it was what I also was pitching, claiming that it MUST to be composed. I am so enthusiastic to hear it as I have my own version! Did anybody hear the Stokowski's versions? Any recommendations for existing recordings. Did Stokowski's conduct his own orchestras with this work? I never was a fun of Stokowski's Mussorgsky and I am VERY fascinated what he did with Godunov.



I always thought that Stokowski was very attuned to Mussorgsky. I think he was the first conductor of the original Boris Godunov version by Mussorgsky as opposed to the R-K orchestration. His Boris Suites are a good "synthesis" of the Boris opera musical highlights in the manner of Wagner Ring syntheses.  I also think Stokoski's orchestration of Pictures At an Exhibition is much more Russian than the Ravel orchestration which basically makes it another Ravel composition.
04-27-2015 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
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Post #: 9
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Boris Suites by Stokowski?
fiogf49gjkf0d
 steverino wrote:
I always thought that Stokowski was very attuned to Mussorgsky. I think he was the first conductor of the original Boris Godunov version by Mussorgsky as opposed to the R-K orchestration. His Boris Suites are a good "synthesis" of the Boris opera musical highlights in the manner of Wagner Ring syntheses.  I also think Stokoski's orchestration of Pictures At an Exhibition is much more Russian than the Ravel orchestration which basically makes it another Ravel composition.
Perhaps, I do not know. I personally do not feel that Stokowski has any interesting conception to Mussorgsky. I would say that among the western musicians Claudio Abbado during his younger age but he never did any good Boris. I do not think that I even hear the Stokowski’s Boris Suites if it out there then I am for sure have to listen it. I heard his Symphonic Synthesis, that is what you refer as Boris Suites?



"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
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