This week we have Moussorgsky's masterpiece, Boris Godounov, based on the play by Pushkin. Boris Godunov served the court of Ivan IV (menacingly referred to by history as "The Terrible"), and in 1584 Ivan named Boris to be one of the guardians for the heir who shortly afterward ascended the throne. Godounov then became de facto ruler of Russia. After Ivan's heir dies, Godounov was elected to the throne. Prior to all of this, Dmitri, the rightful heir to Ivan, died mysteriously. The plot assumes Dmitri was murdered by Boris, leading to Boris eventually becoming Tsar. Part of the story of the opera finds Grigory, a monk, claiming to be Dmitri to try to overthrow Boris. Boris ruled for only seven years, and while not all of it was bad, he was ruthless, paranoid and troubled to say the least, and that comes through in his music.
There are many versions of the opera, including the once often performed version by Moussorgsky's friend Rimsky-Korsakov which has fallen out of favor. This week's highlights are from the now popular 1872 version, a revision by Moussorgsky from his 1869 version.
Valery Gergiev conducts the Kirov Opera orchestra and the chorus of the Marinsky theater in St. Petersburg and an all Russian cast led by Valdimir Vaneev as Boris.