November 9, 2020
From the heroics of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, through the twilit bourgeois world of Chekhov to the vast epics of War and Peace, Russia’s culture is obsessed with one thing and one thing only, the country out of which it grew. It is then no coincidence that two of the greatest “national” operas in the canon, Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, are both by a Russian. By calling on periods in his country’s past, beset by peril and religious and political separatism, Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was able to create recognizable parables for his compatriots. The performance history of his third opera Boris Godunov may have obscured its important message about personal and corporate responsibility, but seen in its original version, untrammelled by later Romantic posturing, we are able to uncover the story of a man dogged by the guilt of what he has done.