Olivier Gourdy, Julie Goussot, Sreten Manojlovic, Yevhen Rakhmanin, Flore Van Meerssche; Theresia Orchestra/Andrea Marchiol
CPO 555 502-2 148:36 mins (2 discs)
This recording commemorates a lively production at the 2021 Innsbruck Music Festival of an obscure 1710 Boris Goudenow. Brainchild of Johann Mattheson (1681–1764), then secretary to the British ambassador in Hamburg, the opera promoted Swedish interests. Thus its hero Gavust (King Gustav) helps the enlightened Russian nobleman Goudonow – a contrast to Musorgsky’s later child murderer – become tsar, while vanquishing a treacherous Danish prince who schemes to deny Gavust his beloved, the previous tsar’s daughter.
Mattheson had formerly been employed by the Hamburg opera, and Boris Goudenow follows its conventions: short numbers, no castrati parts, arias in both German and Italian, ‘learned’ choruses – Mattheson opens Act II with a stunning a cappella canon – and loads of French dance music. Director Andrea Marchiol has trimmed roles and numbers to strengthen the drama and foreground the strongest music.
Julie Goussot, singing Gavust’s lover, stands out with her radiant sweetness and urgent dramatic delivery. Flore Van Meerssche also shines, especially when filling unaccompanied or barely accompanied bars with her additions and glorious colours. Bass Olivier Gourdy in the title role is regal and rich-toned, though vibrato at times blurs his diminutions. But the artistry carrying this production is above all that of the band Theresia, whose pacing, phrasing and additions make this little-known score engagingly dramatic.
Sadly, sloppy post-production has failed to edit hesitated entries and other lapses. The artists’ enthusiasm compensates for most, but not all, of these shortcomings.