Boris: Do Russian Leaders Ever Change?
|René Pape, photo @ Marty Sohl|
The spare, stark revival at the Met used Mussorgsky's original 1869 score, which does not include the Polish act that Mussorgsky added in 1872. It's also much shorter, more episodic, and makes the opera even more laser-focused on the guilt of the Russian leader.
|A scene from Stephen Wadsworth's production|
|Boris and his children, photo @ Marty Sohl|
|Ryan Speedo Green, photo @ Marty Sohl|
Ain Anger was a wiry-voiced Pimen. Voice not exactly easy on the ears, but it served the character well. David Butt Philip was a bit too nasal as Grigory/Pretender Dmitriy, although if there's one aspect of the 1872 version I miss, it's a more fleshed-out role for Grigory. Veteran character-bass Richard Bernstein (Nikitch) has an excellent, large voice and a vigorous stage presence. Aleksey Bogdanov also made a strong impression as Shchelkalov -- his opening lament was one of the highlights of the evening.
|Pimen and Grigory, photo @ Marty Sohl|
The 1869 version ends with Boris's death. Although I miss the 1872 final scene of Grigory/Pretender becoming a leader more corrupt than Boris, ending with Boris's death means ending the opera with one of the greatest bass monologues in the canon. It's heart-rending and hauntingly beautiful. At the end of the evening the curtain went down and then went up on Pape alone on the stage. The crowd gave him a loud ovation of appreciation.
This revival of Boris might not have been a box-office hit, but it was artistically a triumph.