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Opera Modest Mussorgsky "Boris Godunov" (opera in five acts). Production by Alexander Sokurov
World famous Bolshoi Ballet and Opera theatre (established 1776) - Small Stage

Running time: 3 hours 40 minutes

Schedule for Modest Mussorgsky "Boris Godunov" (opera in five acts). Production by Alexander Sokurov 2022

Composer: Modest Mussorgsky
Choirmaster producer: Valery Borisov
Light Designer: Damir Ismagilov
Choreography: Ekaterina Mironova
Costume Designer: Yelena Zaytseva
Director: Alexander Sokurov
Set Designer: Yuri Kuper
Costume Designer: Pavel Kaplevich
Director: Igor Ushakov
Costume Designer: Fyodor Fyodorovsky

Orchestra: Bolshoi Theatre Symphony Orchestra

Premiere of this production: April 25, 2007

Libretto by Modest Mussorgsky, based on Alexander Pushkin’s play of the same name

Sung in Russian.

Presented with three interval.


Act I

Scene 1
The people have been driven to the area adjacent to the Novodevichy Monastery to implore Boris Godunov on their knees to accept the crown. The lashes of the police officers and constables ’encourage’ them "not to spare their voices". The Duma secretary, Andrei Shchelkalov, appeals to God to send "consolation to sorrowing Russia". The night is drawing to a close. In the distance, the singing of blind pilgrims can be heard. These "Godfearing folk" make their way to the monastery, distributing icons and amulets among the people. They too add their voice to the pleas that Boris be elected Tsar.

Scene 2
Gathered in the Kremlin before the Assumption Cathedral, the people offer up praise to Boris. Boris is overcome by a sense of foreboding. But enough: no one must see the Tsar’s fears - enemies are everywhere. And the Tsar commands that the people be summoned to a feast - "all, from boyar to blind beggar". His beloved son stands beside him. Watching the Tsar’s coronation is the monk and chronicler Pimen.…Shouts of ’glory!’ merge with the ringing of bells.

Act II

Scene 1
Night. A cell in the Chudov Monastery. Pimen, who has been the witness of many events, is writing his chronicle. The young monk Grigory has woken up. The sound of chanting can be heard. Grigory is worried by a dream he keeps having, "a haunting, cursed dream!". He asks Pimen to interpret it for him. The young monk’s dream stirs in Pimen memories of years gone by. Grigory envies Pimen, who had spent most of his life in the world, his exciting youth. His tales of tsars who had exchanged "the royal sceptre and their robes, and their splendid crown for the humble cowl of a monk" do nothing to allay the young novice’s envy. He listens, with bated breath, to the monk’s tale of Tsarevich Dmitry’s murder. The passing comment that Grigory and the Tsarevich were of the same age, sows the seeds of an ambitious plan in his mind.

Scene 2
Grigory, who is making for Lithuania, arrives at an inn on the Lithuanian frontier, together with two tramps, the runaway monks Missail and Varlaam. Completely engrossed by the thought of becoming Pretender, he does not keep company with the old monks who have organized a small feast. Both are very tipsy, Varlaam strikes up a song. Meanwhile, Grigory questions the Hostess about the road. From his conversation with her he learns that barriers have been put up: they are searching for someone. But the affable Hostess tells Grigory about an alternative, roundabout way to the frontier. Suddenly loud knocking is heard. Talk of the devil - the police officers appear. With an eye to gain - the monks collect alms - the police officers interrogate Varlaam - who are they and where are they from? An arrest warrant is produced for the heretic, Grishka Otrepev. The police officer wants to intimidate Varlaam - perhaps he is the runaway heretic from Moscow? Grigory offers to read the warrant. When he gets to the description of the runaway, keeping his calm, he quickly reads out the characteristics of his fellow traveler. The police officers throw themselves at Varlaam. Grigory, Varlaam and Missail decide to have a bit of fun at the police officers’ expense: Varlaam demands that he be allowed to read the warrant. Reading slowly, stumbling over the words, he calls out the name of Grigory, but Grigory, who has long been prepared for the worst, quickly makes his getaway.


The Tsar’s apartments. The Tsarevna Xenia is crying over the death of her betrothed. Tsarevich Fyodor is learning his geography lesson. The Nurse sits, sewing. By jokes and humorous stories and simply by a heartfelt word, she tries to distract Xenia from her grief. Fyodor caps the Nurse’s tale with one of his own. The Nurse joins in singing the chorus. They clap hands, acting out the tale. The Tsar comforts Xenia, putting his arm round her and kissing her, and questions Fyodor about his lessons. The sight of the kingdom of Muscovy on the map arouses painful associations in Boris. In everything - in the calamities which have overtaken the state and in his daughter’s unhappiness - he sees the shadow of the murder of Tsarevich Dmitry. Learning from Shuisky, a cunning courtier, of the appearance of a Pretender in Lithuania, Boris demands he confirm the fact of the Tsarevich’s death. Shuisky insidiously describes the murder in all its gory detail. This is torture to Boris: he drives Prince Shuisky, his military commander from the room. Boris succumbs to his fear and spiritual pain.

Act IV

Scene 1
At Sandomir Castle, Marina is sitting at her dressing-table. The Jesuit Rangoni appears. Invoking the authority of the Church, he instructs Marina that she must use her feminine charms to entrap the Pretender. Marina objects, but gives in as she realizes that this is in her own interests.

Scene 2
Preparations for a ball are underway at Sandomir Castle. Watching the bustle, Grigory is waiting for Marina. Enter Rangoni. By sweet speeches about Marina’s beauty, the Jesuit gets the Pretender to confess his passionate love for the proud Polish Princess. Marina’s numerous guests enter the hall. The ball begins. Not wishing to present Dmitry to the assembled company, Rangoni makes him leave the hall. Grigory hides amidst the dancing couples. The ball comes to an end and the guests follow Marina out into the park where they are regaled with wine.

Fountain scene. Park. A noisy crowd of merry guests strolls through the park. They are celebrating the imminent victory of the Polish forces over those of Boris. The Pretender hides behind the trees. Enter Marina. Via endearments, caprice and mockery she fans the Pretender’s ambition.

Act V

Scene 1
Before the Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed, the people are engaged in a lively discussion about the rumors that the Pretender’s army is approaching Moscow, the church service, the curse that had been put on Grishka Otrepyev and the fact that ’May his soul rest in heaven’ had been sung for the Tsarevich. The common folk are convinced that the Pretender is the real Tsarevich Dmitry and the blasphemy shocks them - how could ’May his soul rest in heaven’ be sung for a man who is still alive! The Simpleton runs in, followed by a crowd of booing urchins. Surrounding him, the urchins grab the kopek of which he had just been boasting. The Simpleton weeps. The boyars emerge from the Cathedral and distribute alms. Next comes the Tsar. The starving and the paupers - all the people gathered in the square, on their knees, arms held out to their king, beg for bread. Catching sight of the sobbing Simpleton, Boris stops and inquires who has offended him. With naпve impudence, the Simpleton asks the Tsar to murder the urchins, just as he had murdered the infant Tsarevich. Boris stops the constable who is about to arrest the Simpleton and requests the latter to pray for him. But one cannot pray for a Tsar Herod. "The Virgin Mary won’t allow it".

Scene 2
A sitting of the Boyar Duma. The Pretender’s fate is being decided. The slow-witted boyars regret that without Shuisky "the opinion hasn’t come out quite right". Enter Shuisky. The boyars refuse to believe him when he tells them that Boris is out of his mind, but shouting "Away, away child!", the disheveled Tsar himself puts in an appearance. Boris addresses the boyars. Shuisky interrupts him with the suggestion that he listen to a holy man who wishes to tell him a great secret. Enter Pimen. His tale of the miracle, linked to the dead Tsarevich’s name, of a blind man regaining his sight, is too much for Boris who collapses. Feeling that he is about to die, he calls for Tsarevich Fyodor and gives him his last instructions: he should rule Rus justly, honor the saints and protect his sister. He invokes Heaven’s blessing for his children. The death knell is heard. Enter monks with the sackcloth. Boris is dead.

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  • Schedule for Modest Mussorgsky "Boris Godunov" (opera in five acts). Production by Alexander Sokurov 2022

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