Saturday, October 23, 2010

Opera Riff: Boris Godunov

We took in the Met's Boris Godunov this afternoon, and my main question is whether are two Valery Gergievs?  All week this guy has  been knocking out Mahler at Carnegie Hall and here he is for the four and a half hour stint in the pit at the met this afternoon.  Granted it is an opera he's done perhaps 50 times (in its various avatars)--but with that kind of a background, you think that in addition to tired, he might be stale.  Nothing of the sort: he turned in a crisp and emphatic rendering with his signature Russian timbre (though I do not know precisely why I think that).

You will recall: this is the opera where the chorus is one of the stars, or rather the Russian People, or rather Mother Russia itself.  A surprise to me is that (at least in this rendering) the chorus isn't actually on stage all that  much: they're on hand for the beginning and the end, but the middle is mostly intimate and inward looking--with the risk of feeling a tad slow unless you are really engaged.

You'll recognize the story:  Dmitri, child of the late tsar, dies; perhaps he was murdered, perhaps by Boris. Boris becomes tsar, but he's not happy about it: he weeps for his people and for his own incapacity to to give them succor.  Griogory the young novice from the monastery, sets himself up as Dmitry, not dead at all, but returned and ready to claim his throne.   The tsar dies, mad.  Grigory/Dmitry marches on Moscow, at the head of an army of cheering peasants.  A Holy Fool stays behind to lament the uncertain fate of his unfortunate nation.

It's all great theatre, and I wonder if it is too early for a remake. Tsar Barack laments his incapacity to give succor to his people.  Meanwhile in a distant province of the empire, the monk Sarah plots her return in the guise of her people's fallen hero, Ronald.    I got dibs on Holy Fool.

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