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In the Forum: Musical Discussions
In the Thread: Opera “Boris Godunov”
Post Subject: The maker of the “Russian Ark” does “Boris Godunov”! Posted by Romy the Cat on: 4/19/2007
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.
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