The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, September 28, 2022


After a Met Opera Milestone, 'Boris' brings another
Maxim Paster, center, in “Boris Godunov,” in New York, Sept. 25. 2021. The Met Opera is performing the terse, original 1869 version of Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov” for the first time. Richard Termine/The New York Times.

by Zachary Woolfe



NEW YORK, NY.- You may have heard about the widely publicized landmark with which the Metropolitan Opera opened its season Monday: Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” its first work by a Black composer. Flying under the radar is the less momentous but still significant milestone that followed Tuesday, when the company finally performed the original 1869 version of Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov.”

Opera is littered with competing editions and unclear authorial intentions. Does the Giulietta act go before or after the Antonia act in “Les Contes d’Hoffmann”? Do you sing Verdi’s masterpiece in Italian as “Don Carlo,” or — as the Met will do for the first time in its history late this winter — in the original French, as “Don Carlos”?

But probably no major work is as vexed as “Boris Godunov.” Mussorgsky had never written an opera when he created this often brusque, raw, darkly sober, oddly spare score about a troubled czar and his troubled country. We’re not entirely sure why it was rejected by the imperial theater directorate, but the main reason may have been a banal one: The piece lacked a major female character.

So Mussorgsky gamely (perhaps even happily) revised, adding material — including Marina, a leading lady of sorts — and taking chunks out; a version of that version premiered in 1874. Then, after Mussorgsky’s death, his friend Rimsky-Korsakov took it upon himself to reorchestrate, rejigger and sometimes recompose the work to make it more colorful and less idiosyncratic. This seems scandalous to us, but without Rimsky “Boris” would never have entered the international repertoire early in the 20th century.

Over the past 50 years or so, as part of a general vogue for presenting art as its creators envisioned, Rimsky’s glittering interventions fell from grace in favor of Mussorgsky’s starker orchestrations. But his revised, post-1869 version has remained the norm. Or, more precisely, an amalgam: The available options have served as a kind of grab bag, with scenes and passages kept or left out at will, and ordered in various sequences. (That all this is possible speaks to how strange and episodic the work is, as well as to how compelling it remains in almost any form.)

It was therefore not unusual that, when the Met’s production premiered in 2010, it could contain, among other choices, both the act set in Poland (from Mussorgsky’s revised version) and the scene at the Cathedral of St. Basil, which had been cut after 1869. This was a sprawling, two-intermission affair of almost 4 1/2 hours.

The 1869 version, still a rarity, runs about half that, in a single act of seven scenes presented at the Met without intermission. (The edition being performed is by Michael Rot.) This is by no means an abbreviated “Boris.” But conducted with cool, efficient clarity and seriousness by Sebastian Weigle, it is certainly a lithe evening, a sour shot of a demanding, easily manipulated populace and the leader whom the crowd alternately acclaims and reviles: the title character, privately tormented by guilt at having come to power by murdering the 8-year-old heir to the throne.

Lithe, too, is the Met’s nearly set-less staging, which director Stephen Wadsworth took on at the last minute back in 2010 and which still works well in this version, allowing for fluid scene changes and reflecting the austerity of Mussorgsky’s original vision. His orchestra acts not as a Wagner-style character in its own right, nor as a melodic interlocutor. (There aren’t many melodies.) Instead, it serves as a propelling undercurrent and atmosphere for exposed vocal lines tailored to the rhythms of Russian speech — anticipating Debussy’s “Pelléas et Mélisande,” which borrows audibly from “Boris,” and Janacek. Adroitly handled, the technique allows the opera to be talky while flowing ever forward.




And this was a cast of sonorous, articulate singing talkers, led by the production’s star from 2010, bass René Pape, his voice as burnished and secure as ever as Boris. If Pape’s tonal pleasures have often seemed to come at the expense of vivid characterizations — as in his beautiful, bland Gurnemanz in Wagner’s “Parsifal” — he fits the restraint of this conductor, chorus and production.

This staging is the occasion for several accomplished Met debuts: bass Ain Anger, commanding as the monk Pimen, who predicts Boris’ downfall; tenor David Butt Philip, bright yet brooding as Grigory, who proclaims himself Dmitry, the believed-to-have-been-killed rightful heir to the throne; baritone Aleksey Bogdanov, firm and forthright as the nobleman Shchelkalov; and tenor Maxim Paster, bronze-toned and cynical as Prince Shuisky.

Bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green, the best singer in “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” has equally rich, unforced power here as the drunken monk Varlaam. Mezzo-soprano Tichina Vaughn, as a piquant inn hostess, and tenor Miles Mykkanen, as the plangent Holy Fool who haunts Boris, are both excellent.

Should we prefer the 1869 original? I actually find the revised version’s ending — the angry mob, bent on revolution, is yet again flipped into cowed fervor, this time by the false Dmitry — to be more effective and haunting than the curtain falling on Boris’ death, particularly in Pape’s all too mellow performance here. But I don’t miss the Polish act, which has always seemed a bit out of place in its deployment of operatic conventions. And the work’s general pessimism seems better suited to its original terseness than to more epic scale.

My answer — today, at least — is yes.



Event Information:

‘Boris Godunov’

Through Oct. 17 at the Metropolitan Opera, New York; metopera.org.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.










Today's News

October 1, 2021

Symbolism Represented in Antique Caucasian Rugs (Part 3)

The Cleveland Museum of Art announces new acquisitions

Met Museum to return ancient sculpture to Nepal

Hindman sets new world auction record for Martin Wong work, selling for $1.1 million

Yale says its Vinland Map, once called a Medieval treasure, is fake

Auction Technology Group to complete acquisition of LiveAuctioneers

Amicable solution for restitution claim: Ketterer Kunst to offer Emil Nolde painting with notable provenance

Elvis vs. Lenin: A superpower confrontation on canvas

Christie's Classic Week features 5 live and 3 online auctions

New major artwork by renowned artist Conrad Shawcross launches in Ramsgate

Minnesota Street Project announces arts leader, Madison Cario as CEO

Milestone's Oct. 2 Toy Spectacular a feast of European & American antique toys

Phoenix Art Museum receives $4 million grant from Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust

Thought-provoking installation unveiled at City Hall, Jersey City

Review: A choreographer stakes an independent claim

Review: Bill T. Jones' oceanic vision

Positive coronavirus cases halt 'Aladdin' a day after it reopened

Lonnie Smith, soulful jazz organist, is dead at 79

After a choreographer's suicide, ballet confronts tough questions

After a Met Opera Milestone, 'Boris' brings another

In Paris, it's literary scandal season again

Laumeier Sculpture Park explores remembrance, connection, and strength of community in new exhibition

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opens in Los Angeles

Christie's eyes $2 mln for Wallis Simpson bangle at auction

How You Can Keep Your Washing Machine Well Maintained

Make the Right Health Insurance Choice For You and Your Family in Switzerland

Pop Culture and the Fan Art Phenomenon




Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 



Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

sa gaming free credit

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful