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Historical Tragedy

GIUSEPPE PENNISI visits Palermo for the
critical edition of Musorgsky's 'Boris Godunov'


Any staging of Modest Musorgsky's Boris Godunov entails a major issue: which edition to perform? Musorgsky himself wrote and composed two different operas based on Alexsander Pushkin's historical tragedy and on Nikolay Karamzin's historical work of the 'Years of troubles' in Russia. The first opera is a seven scene opéra dialogué (with some spoken parts, eg at the end of the coronation scene, and a lot of declamation) centered upon the rise and fall of Boris Godunov as Tsar of the whole of Russia: it opens with his acceptance of the throne and ends with his downfall and death whilst a pretender (to the throne) advances, helped by Polish armies; he is a young defrocked monk (Grigory) who pretends to be Dmitry, the son of Ivan the Terrible, and consequently the right Tsarevich, thought to have been killed in his childhood by Boris' retinues.

The second opera is a much more extended affair: nine scenes -- Boris is on stage in only three of them -- with three main protagonists: the Tsar, the pretender and the Russian people...

Copyright © 22 April 2012 Giuseppe Pennisi,
Rome, Italy







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