Boris Godunov (opera)

From Academic Kids

Boris Godunov (Бори́с Годуно́в in Russian, Boris Godunov in transliteration) is an opera in four acts by Modest Mussorgsky to a Russian libretto by the composer, based on the drama of the same name by Aleksandr Pushkin. First performance: Maryinsky Theatre, Saint Petersburg, 1874. The music is written in a uniquely Russian style, drawing on the composer's knowledge of Russian folk music, and rejecting the influence of German and Italian opera. Pushkin based his play on the historical figure Boris Godunov, and was inspired by Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Mussorgsky's work exists in two main versions: the original 1869 version, and a revised version from 1872. The 1872 version features a different portrayal of the titular Tzar as well as the addition of Marina as a major female role and a scene set in Poland; a 1997 Kirov Opera recording included both versions, each with a different singer playing Boris.

The opera was reorchestrated twice by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1896 and 1908), who provided much more refined versions; these are the versions usually performed today in Russia. In the west, Mussorgsky's original, rather rough orchestral score has become more popular, as some critics prefer the dark colors of the original as being more in keeping with the character of the story. The opera was also orchestrated by Dmitri Shostakovich.

Synopsis (1872 version)

Place, Russia.
Time, 1598-1605.

ACT I. Scene I is set in front of the Novodievitchi Convent and the populace, sufficiently inspired by a police officer, are demanding that the Tzar reassume the sceptre of Russia. The secretary of the Douma comes out of the convent, and informs the crowd that the Tzar still refuses. The crowd again renews its appeal. Scene II is set in a cell within the convent. Gregory awakes from a horrible dream. He bemoans the fate of the murdered Tzarevitch. Scene III is in the great Square between the two Cathedrals of the Assumption and the Archangels. The populace are awaiting the coming of the Tzar. He appears amid cries of joy, addresses the people, and then enters the Cathedral of the Assumption.

ACT II. Scene I is in an inn. Gregory and two monks who have escaped from the convent with him, enter. Shortly afterwards a guard appears in search of a fugitive whose description tallies with that of Gregory. He rushes from the room with the guard in pursuit. Scene II is in the Tzar's apartments in the Kremlin. Word is brought to the Tzar that Dimitri who was murdered (impersonated by Gregory) has reappeared and is rousing the people. The Tzar betrays great agony of mind.

ACT III. Scene I is in a garden before the Polish Castle of Mniscek. In a love scene between the False Dimitri and Marina, she spurs him on to lead the attack against Moscow so that he may seize the throne and make her queen. Scene II is in the Forest of Kromy where Dimitri's army disperses a crowd of vagrants and rescues some of his adherents. Scene III is before the Kremlin. A session is being held, presided over by the Tzar to decide what judgment shall be meted out to the false Dimitri. An old peasant tells the Tzar how he was cured of blindness when praying at the tomb of the dead Tzarevitch, and the Tzar, deeply impressed after counselling his son to reign wisely, prays that his great crimes may be forgiven him and falls dead.


Plot taken from The Opera Goer's Complete Guide by Leo Melitz, 1921 version.

External links

Upcoming performances of Boris Godunov ( from Operabase.comes:Boris Godunov (ópera) pl:Borys Godunow (opera)


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