Musorgsky: Boris Godunov

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Musorgsky
LABELS: Opus Arte
WORKS: Boris Godunov
PERFORMER: Orlin Anastassov, Alessandra Marianelli, Pavel Zubov, Ian Storey, Vladimir Vaneev, Peter Bronder, Vladimir Matorin et al; Orchestra and Choruses of the Teatro Regio/Gianandrea Noseda; dir. Andrei Konchalovsky (Turin, 2010)
CATALOGUE NO: Opus Arte DVD: OA 1053D (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16: 9 picture format); Blu-ray: OA BD 7087D (1080i HD; 5.1 dts HD; 16:9 picture format)

Advertisement

After Andrei Tarkovsky, whose Covent Garden production outlived his death, along comes another fine if less visionary Russian film director, Andrei Konchalovsky, to tackle Russia’s most resonant opera. While Tarkovsky used the hybrid version combining Musorgsky’s terse, rough first thoughts and more polished second version, Konchalovsky sticks to the 1869 original. His choice characterises the opera – as Pushkin’s original play never was – as an uneasy dialogue between ruler and people. Yet he not only tacks on the 1872 Kromy Forest scene before, rather than after, the death of Boris but also follows other avowed followers of 1869 in giving the Tsar his revised, much more melodramatic central monologue. This melodramatic quality seems symptomatic of so much of this period-faithful production.

Orlin Anastassov makes a rich-voiced but wildly over-the-top Godunov. The people, splendidly sung by a well-drilled Teatro Regio chorus, overdo the sardonic realism of their forced rejoicings. Vladimir Vaneev, another fine Boris in other productions, finds more nuance as the chronicler-monk Pimen but is hampered by a bad wig hairline, and the make-up department go overboard on freakshow grotesquerie. It’s good to have the superlative treble Pavel Zubov as Boris’s son Fyodor, but pity the poor child having to deal with such a ham dad.

Advertisement

There’s a vocally strong but again overdone Shuysky from Peter Bronder and a (deliberately?) repellent Grigory as portrayed by Ian Storey. Inn and monastery scenes are the usual drag; apart from a rising throne and a bloody cup chucked over a child, nothing is quite as visually striking as in Konchalovsky’s Mariinsky production of Prokofiev’s War and Peace. Best is Gianandrea Noseda’s fluent and urgent conducting; a shame he makes such tendentious speculations alongside the director’s intriguing generalities in the two companion interviews. David Nice