This weekend’s online stream from San Francisco Opera is Modest Mussorgsky’s operatic depiction of the troubled life of the rise and fall of the 16th century Tsar, Boris Godunov.
Recorded in 2008 at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, this production of Boris Godunov – originally from Grand Théâtre de Genève – was the Company’s first staging of Mussorgsky’s original 1869 version of the opera. The composer – who also wrote the libretto – based his synopsis on Alexander Pushkin’s 1825 play of the same name.
After the deaths of Ivan the Terrible and his son Fyodor, Boris Godunov becomes Regent, as Ivan’s surviving son Dmitry, the Tsarevitch, is still a child. When Dmitry dies in mysterious circumstances, Boris, at the behest of a group of politicians, reluctantly agrees to become Tsar, hoping that no one will discover the secret that troubles him – his role in the assassination of the rightful heir to the throne. Boris is considered to be a good ruler, until a young monk Grigory, who bears a remarkable resemblance to the deceased Tsarevitch, decides to impersonate Dmitry and seize the throne. With pressure mounting on him from all sides, Boris begins to lose his sanity.
The title role in this production is taken by American bass Samuel Ramey, recipient of the 2003 San Francisco Opera Medal. Tenor John Uhlenhopp is Prince Shuisky, bass Vitalij Kowaljow is Pimen and bass Vladimir Ognovenko is the vagabond Varlaam. Former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow Ji Young Yang and treble Jack Gorin are Boris Godunov’s daughter, Xenia, and son, Fyodor. Tenor Vsevolod Grivnov portrays Grigory, baritone Nicolai Janitzky is the secretary of the Duma, Shckelkalov, and former Adler Fellow Andrew Bidlack is the Simpleton.
Directing this production is internationally recognised Julia Pevzner, making her Company debut, and the producer is Norwegian producer and director Stein Winge, a former director at the National Theatre in London. Set designer is Göran Wassberg, costume designer is Kari Gravklev and lighting is by Duane Schuler.
Russian conductor Vassily Sinaisky leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus, and the San Francisco Girls and Boys choruses (Chorus Director Ian Robertson). Currently Music Director of the Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava, Maestro Sinaisky is also Conductor Emeritus of the BBC Philharmonic and the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, and Honorary Conductor of the Malmö Symphony Orchestra. Most recently he held the position of Chief Conductor and Music Director of Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre.
Boris Godunov is performed in Russian with English subtitles, and is available to view, free of charge, via the San Francisco Opera website from 10.00 am (PST) on November 14th, expiring at 11.59 pm the following day.