Boris Godunov Inauguration of the 2010-11 Opera Season

Gianandrea Noseda opens the season with  Mussorgsky’s masterpiece in a new staging by Andrei Konchalovsky

Teatro Regio, Tuesday 5 October 2010 at 8 pm

The 2010-2011 Season of the Teatro Regio opens on Tuesday 5 October at 8 pm with a new staging of Boris Godunov. Modest Mussorgsky’s dramatic masterpiece will be presented in a new and original dramaturgical version, the result of the intensive work and prolific collaboration between Music Director Gianandrea Noseda – who will be on the podium of the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Regio – and the award-winning Russian stage director Andrei Konchalovsky who has created the staging and lights. Protagonist will be bass Orlin Anastassov, and with him Ian Storey, Sergej Aleksaškin, Peter Bronder, Vladimir Matorin, Evgenij Akimov; the imposing sets are by Graziano Gregori, the magnificent costumes by Carla Teti. Chorus Master will be Roberto Gabbiani and Claudio Fenoglio will prepare the Children’s Chorus of the Teatro Regio and the “G. Verdi” Conservatory of Torino. The new staging is realised by the Teatro Regio in co-production with the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía of Valencia and Fondazione Lirico Sinfonica Petruzzelli e Teatri di Bari.

On the occasion of the most important event of the season, the fundamental support of the Gruppo Fondiaria Sai will be renewed for the seventh straight year, demonstrating once again its intention to continue investing in culture by reinforcing its ties and emphasising its affinity with the Teatro Regio and its city.

The orchestral score and libretto of Boris Godunov were composed on impulse by Mussorgsky in only fourteen months, between October 1868 and December 1869, after  Pushkin’s tragedy by the same name and the tenth and eleventh volumes of The History of the Russian State by Nikolaj Karam’zin. Obscure scheming, assassins, popular revolts, one of the darkest periods in Russian history: the bitter fight for the throne after the death of Ivan the Terrible, the accession and reign of Csar Boris Godunov in the second half of the sixteenth century, his madness and death provided the composer with the historical material for painting a memorable picture. At the centre of the opera, Mussorgsky places the Russian people, victims of hunger and poverty, torn between the impulse to revolt and fear of  established authority – the composer traces a fundamental, dramatic role for the chorus– who serve to counterbalance the tragedy of the single individual, the drama of Boris, destroyed by his sense of guilt for the assassination of the legitimate heir to the throne that ends up driving him crazy. «Boris is a profound meditation on the essence of power and the price of suffering that it imposes; a reflection on the degeneration that arises when power gets out of control of those who have it». In this reading by Claudio Toscani it appears extremely clear one of the main guidelines dictating the choice of titles of the 2010-2011 season: to draw attention to the relationship that opera has to history, and stress the fact that operas not only describe the past, but also have something to say about the present. As Gianandrea Noseda emphasises: «Boris is the story of an attempt to arrive at power by any means: isn’t corruption in Boris’s time the same as today?».

But the story of Boris Godunov is also the story of an eternal work in progress. The first Boris, or Ur-Boris of 1869, rejected by the reading commission of the Imperial Theatre, was followed by a second version (also at first rejected), edited by the same Mussorgsky and dated 1872, known as the “original version”, in which the composer includes three new scenes, two of which make up the “Polish Act”, and the third, the last, the popular revolt in the forest of  Kromy. It was only in January 1874 that the opera had its first complete performance, and with great success. Three famous versions followed: the two by Rimsky-Korsakov, in 1896 and 1908, which supplant the authentic text, and the one elaborated by Shostakovich in 1940.

Gianandrea Noseda and Andrei Konchalovsky propose an original version, the result of dramaturgical intervention on the Ur-Boris with a new sequence of scenes that respects the chronology of the historical events.

The word “spectacle” can be used for this opera, and the new staging by Andrei Konchalovsky will certainly be grandiose. Disciple of Andrej Tarkovskij, creator of the last staging of Boris seen at the  Regio in 1997, Konchalovsky has directed  such unforgettable films as Maria’s Lovers, A 30 secondi dalla fine and the award-winning Zio Vanja. Inventive and visionary, the Russian director, brother of Nikita Michalkov, manages to express in his works the different spirits, anxieties and contradictions of Russia today. For some time now he has cultivated a passion for music and opera; unforgettable is his War and Peace by Prokofiev, one of the most impressive productions to be staged in recent years at the Metropolitan Opera in New York (2007-08 season), in which he collaborated with Maestro Noseda. In this staging of Boris, the historical reality is respected, encouraging the listener to concentrate on the painful primordial and violent concreteness of the story; the terror rendered explicit by such simple earthly elements as fire and blood.

In the title role, the young Bulgarian bass Orlin Anastassov, winner of the prestigious Operalia-Placido Domingo in 1999, returns to the Regio after his brilliant interpretation of Count Walter in Luisa Miller during the 2009-10 season. With him: tenor Ian Storey, seen in La Fanciulla del West in January 2004, will be the pretender Grigory;  bass Sergej Aleksaškin, a specialist in Russian repertoire, will be Pimen;  tenor Peter Bronder, Herod in the splendid Salome of Carsen, will be Vasilij Šujskij;  bass Vladimir Matorin will be Varlaam, a role he already sang in 2007 at Teatro Real of Madrid in Klaus Michael Grüber’s Boris conducted by Jesús López-Cobos; Jurodivyi the Innocent will be Evgenij Akimov, the russian tenor, recipient, twice in 1996 and 2003, of the Golden Mask, St Petersburg's highest theatre prize. 

During the course of the nine performances, from 5 to 17 October, Vladimir Matorin will alternate as Boris and Vladimir Baykov as Varlaam.

Rai Trade will be realising a dvd of this new production and Prima della Prima (Rai Tre) will dedicate an episode to Boris Godunov, besides opera’s images also protagonist’s interview and back stage. Boris Godunov will be broadcast live by Rai-Radio3 on Tuesday 5 October at 8 pm and will be presented to the public by Giorgio Pestelli in Incontro con l’Opera to take place at the Piccolo Regio Puccini Wednesday 29 September at 5.30 pm.

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Torino, 7 September 2010

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