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Work of the Week – Modest Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov

Two productions of Modest Mussorgsky's opera Boris Godunov will open the year 2024: on 14 January 2024, the Bavarian State Opera will present the revival of its successful production at the Munich National Theatre. The production by Calixto Bieito will be under the musical direction of Dima Slobodeniouk. On 28 January 2024, the National Theatre Mannheim will stage a new production of the piece at the Theater im Pfalzbau in Ludwigshafen. The director here is Lorenzo Fioroni, with Roberto Rizzi Brignoli conducting. Both productions use the historical-critical performance material published by Verlagsgruppe Hermann.

Boris, the leading character, has murdered the heir to the throne, Dmitry, and now rules over the Russian empire. Despite his honest efforts to improve the situation of the starving people, he is not loved. He is also plagued by remorse, which his opponents exploit to put him under psychological pressure. In the end, death awaits him. In Boris Godunov, however, it is not the title character who plays the actual leading role, but the Russian people, who are portrayed in impressive mass scenes.

In 1869, Mussorgsky wrote the first version of Boris Godunov, later known as ‘Early Boris’, based on the work Dramatic Chronicle by Alexander Pushkin. When he submitted it to the Musical Theater Committee of the Imperial Theaters, however, he was met with complete rejection. The committee criticized above all the lack of a representative female role. Mussorgsky then reworked and substantially expanded the work for three years. However, the resulting ‘Original Boris’ also failed at its premiere in St. Petersburg in 1874 and was canceled by the censorship authorities in 1882 for reasons of state policy.

Boris Godunov by Modest Mussorgsky: Power and Crowds

Several versions by Mussorgsky himself as well as new orchestrations by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Dmitri Shostakovich have contributed to obscuring the original dramaturgical and musical form of Boris Godunov. Only Pavel Lamm's critical edition of the work from 1928, on which the Schott edition is based, made it possible to perform the opera about the historical figure Boris Godunov (1552-1605) in its original form, free of later additions, in accordance with the composer's intentions.

Finding the subtle traits of human nature and the human mass, drilling into these unexplored regions and conquering them - that is the mission of the true artist. To new shores! (Modest Mussorgsky)

The productions in Munich and Ludwigshafen can be seen in a total of eleven performances until 11 February 2024.



photo: Bavarian State Opera / Wilfried Hösl


Head of Promotion | Concert Opera Media Division

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