- Boris Godunov(121 mins)concert performance; sung in Russian
- Bryn TerfelBoris Godunov
- Benjamin KnightFyodor
- Vlada BorovkoXenia
- John Graham HallShuisky
- Kostas SmoriginasSchelkalav
- Ain AngerPimen
- David Butt PhilipGrigory (Pretender Dmitry)
- Andrii GoniukovVarlaam
- Harry NicollMissail
- Rebecca de Pont DaviesInnkeeper
- Andrew TortiseYurodivy (Holy Fool)
- James PlattBorder Guard
- Sir Antonio Pappanoconductor
About This Event
Modest Mussorgsky created music of white-hot inspiration in his operatic masterpiece Boris Godunov, which tells of a Tsar hounded by fear, danger and intrigue. Bryn Terfel leads an illustrious cast.
After the death of Ivan the Terrible, the boyar Boris Godunov was appointed
regent – Ivan’s older son, Tsar Fyodor, was physically and mentally frail and
his younger son Dmitry was still an infant. Dmitry died at the age of eight in
mysterious circumstances, which caused many to believe that Boris had arranged
his murder. Some years later, Fyodor died. With no direct heir to the throne,
Boris Godunov is now the most likely candidate to be the next Tsar.
Boris Godunov has retreated to the Novodevichy Monastery. A crowd gathers outside,
and a policeman orders them to entreat Boris to accept the throne. Shchelkalov, clerk of
the Boyars’ Council, tells the crowd that Boris is reluctant to take the throne. Pilgrims
join the entreaties to Boris.
Boris is crowned Tsar in the Kremlin. The people hail him as he emerges. Boris tells
them that he hopes to be a good and humble ruler, and invites everyone to a great feast.
Years pass. Boris proves to be a good and wise ruler, and a devoted father.
Under his rule Russia prospers for some years. Then, unexpectedly, the country
is visited by dreadful famines. The more superstitious believe that this is divine
punishment, visited on Boris for the murder of Tsarevich Dmitry.
In the Chudov Monastery within the Kremlin, the monk Pimen is writing a chronicle
of Russian history. The young novice Grigory interrupts Pimen to tell him of his
nightmare: he climbed a high tower, then fell to the mockery of the people of Moscow.
Pimen urges him to pray, but Grigory expresses regret at his choice of career. He envies
Pimen his early life as a soldier, and urges him to talk about Russia’s past. Pimen talks
of Ivan the Terrible, who visited the monastery, and also of the saintliness of Ivan’s son
Fyodor. He denounces Boris, and tells Grigory about the murder of the Tsarevich Dmitry.
On hearing that Dmitry resembled him and was about his own age, Grigory formulates
a plan to impersonate the Tsarevich, and stir up rebellion.
Grigory (now in secular clothes) arrives at an inn near the Lithuanian border with the
monks Varlaam and Missail. Varlaam calls to the Hostess for drink, and sings a song
about Ivan the Terrible’s siege of Kazan. Grigory asks the Hostess how he can get to the
Lithuanian border. Guards arrive, searching for a fugitive monk (Grigory) who has left
the Chudov Monastery with plans to stir up rebellion. The Frontier Guard suspects that
Varlaam is him. When Grigory realizes that the Frontier Guard cannot read, he reads out
the edict for him, but describes the fugitive as resembling Varlaam, rather than himself.
The Frontier Guard seizes the drunken Varlaam. Varlaam protests his innocence, and reads
the edict correctly. Grigory escapes.
In the Tsar’s apartments, Boris’s daughter Xenia laments the early death of her fiance,
while her brother Fyodor studies a map of Russia. Xenia’s nurse attempts to calm her.
Boris encourages Fyodor’s studies, and meditates on what he has achieved since he came
to power. The Boyar announces the arrival of Prince Shuisky.
Shuisky delivers the news that a Pretender, calling himself the Tsarevich Dmitry, has
appeared in Lithuania, and that he fears the man may gain support. Boris orders Shuisky
to seal the border with Lithuania, and then demands reassurance that Dmitry really did
die, as he was told. Shuisky confirms that he saw Dmitry’s corpse, but also hints that the
Tsarevich’s dead body may have miraculous powers. Boris, now very frightened, orders
Shuisky to leave. Alone, he gives way to guilt and remorse, hallucinates that he can see
the dead Dmitry, and prays for God’s mercy.
Outside St Basil’s Cathedral, the crowd comment on the denouncement of the Pretender
Grishka (Grigory) Otrepiev that they have heard at Mass. A Holy Fool sings a nonsensical
song, and some urchins steal a penny from him. Boris and his retinue leave the Cathedral,
and the hungry crowd begs for bread. Boris hears the Holy Fool crying, and asks why he is
upset. The Holy Fool suggests that Boris should order the murder of the thieving urchins,
just as he ordered the murder of Tsarevich Dmitry. Shuisky demands that the Holy Fool
be arrested, but Boris instead asks the Holy Fool to pray for him. The Holy Fool refuses
to pray for ‘Tsar Herod’ and laments the fate of Russia.
At the Kremlin, the Boyars’ Council gathers. Shchelkalov reads the Tsar’s edict, which
orders the boyars to pass judgement on the Pretender Grigory. The boyars agree that
Grigory and his followers should be executed. Shuisky reports that Boris claims to have
seen the dead Tsarevich Dmitry and is deeply troubled. The boyars refuse to believe
him, until Boris appears, still in the grip of his hallucination. He appears to calm
down, and Shuisky informs him that Pimen has come to speak to him. Pimen tells
Boris that the Tsarevich Dmitry has become a saint from beyond the grave, and cured
an old man’s blindness. Boris collapses in a seizure. He calls for his son Fyodor, bids
the boy farewell and calls for God’s blessing on his children. He names Fyodor the
heir to the throne, begs forgiveness and dies.