Modest Mussorgsky
Boris Godunov

Historic Stage Opera in four acts

Boris Godunov

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Conductors - Vassily Sinaisky, Pavel Sorokin

Director - Igor Ushakov

Designer of scenery revival - Alyona Pikalova

Designer of costumes revival - Elena Zaytseva

Choreography revival - Ekaterina Mironova

Lighting Designer - Sergei Shevchenko

Chorus Master - Valery Borisov

Presented with three intervals. Running time: 4 hours.

Prologue

Scene 1

A crowd throngs by the high walls of the Novodevichy Monastery in Moscow. The boyar, Boris Godunov, haswithdrawn to the monastery after the death of Tsar Fyodor, who did not leave an heir. That Boris will be elected to the throne is a foregone conclu-sion, but he makes a show of refusing the crown sothat he is not suspected of wishing to seize power. At the order of a police offi¬cer, the people beg Godunov to accept election to the throne:

“Do not abandon us, Father,
Do not leave us helpness!”

But Shchelkalov, secretary of the Duma, announces that Boris is implacable.

Scene 2 Square in front of the Cathedral of the As¬sumption in the Kremlin. A majestic pealing of bells — Boris has given his consent and is being crowned. But Tsar Boris is not happy, he is weighed down byanxiety:

“My soul is heavy,
Some instinctive fear
With ominous foreboding
Rivets my heart...”

In the Kremlin the bells are pealing and the people break out again into acclamation.

Act I

Scene 1

Late at night. A cell in the Chudov Monaste¬ry. By the light of an icon-lamp, the wise monk Pimen is writing a truthful chronicle of the history of the Russian state. In his chronicle, Pimen revealsthe secret of the murder, by Boris Godunov, of Tsarevitch Dimitri who had stood between him and the throne. Grigory, a young novice, sharing Pimen’s cell, wakes up. He listens to the holy man’s taleand a storm of anxieties, passions and vainglorious ambitions breaks into the peace of the night. The idea comes to Grigo¬ry of calling himself the Tsarevitch and of doing battle with Boris for thethrone.

“Boris! Boris! All tremble before you,
No one dares to remind you
Of the fate of the hapless infant...
But meanwhile a hermit in a dark cell
Is writing a terrible denunciation against you.
And you shall not escape human judgment,
As you shall not escape the judgment of heaven!”

Scene 2

An inn near the Lithuanian frontier. Three va¬gabond monks, Varlaam, Missail and Grigory, have dropped in on the sprightly, merry mistress of the establishment. Varlaam, a drunkard and glutton, singsa song about the capture of Kazan. Grigory, questions the mi¬stress of the inn on the best route to Lithuania. A police officer comes into the inn: on the Tsar’s orders he is searching for therun¬away monk, Grigory Otrepiev. After an un¬successful attempt to deflect the suspicion from himself, Grigory leaps through the win¬dow and makes good his escape.

Act II

Scene 3

The Tsar’s private apartment in the Kremlin. Tsarevitch Fyodor is looking at the “Book of the Big Drawing”, the first map of Russia. Ksenia, Boris’ daughter, is grieving before a portrait of her deadfiancй, the heir to the Danish throne. In an attempt to cheer her up, her old nurse tells her a funny story. Boris comes in and talks tenderly to his children, he is pleased to see his son gleaningwis¬dom from a book. But even here, with his children, Boris is tormented by anguish. Russia has been visited by a terrible famine. “Peop¬le affected with the plague wander about like wild animals”,and the common people bla¬me the Tsar for all their troubles: “in the squ¬ares they curse the name of Boris”. Some¬thing approaching a groan breaks out from deep down inside the Tsar:

“All around is darkness and impenetrable gloom,
O, for a fleeting glimpse of a ray of joy!..
Some secret anxiety,
One inconstantly expecting disaster!..”

The boyar, Shuisky, comes in, a cunning courtier and leader of a group of boyars with seditious intentions. He brings bad news: a pretender has raised his head in Lithuania, having taken the name ofthe Tsarevitch Dimi¬tri. He has the support of the King of Poland, the Polish nobles and the Pope. Boris requires Shuisky to tell him the truth: is he certain that the babe who was killed in the townof Uglich was the Tsarevitch Dimitri? Shuisky, enjoying the Tsar’s torment, descri¬bes the deep wound on the Tsarevitch’s neck, and the angelic smile on his lips...

“It seemed, that in his cradle
He was peacefully sleeping...”

Shuisky departs, having aroused with new force the fears and agitation which grip Bo¬ris: the latter now thinks he sees an appari¬tion of the murdered Dimitri.

Act III

Scene 4

A ball in the garden of Mnishek, the Governor of Sandomir. The Polish nobles are preparing to march on Moscow. They mean to place their protйgй on the Russian throne:Grigory, the runaway monk from the Chudov monaste¬ry, who has taken the name of the murdered Tsarevitch Dimitri. In this they will be helped by the ambitious plans of the Governor’s daugh¬ter, thebeautiful Marina, who dreams of beco¬ming the wife of the future king of Russia. The long-awaited (by the Pretender) rendez¬vous between Marina and Dimitri who is in love with her takes place.However, Marina’s abrupt and calculating speech, and her de¬termination, which she makes no attempt to conceal, to sit on the Russian throne discon¬cert the Pretender for a brief moment. Reali¬zingthis, Marina wins him over by false pro¬testations of her love for him. The Jesuit, Rangoni, celebrates his victory.

Scene 5

An early winter’s morning. A square in front of the Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed in Moscow. A crowd of starving people are discussing the Pretender’s victories over the forces of Boris. ASimpleton comes running into the Square. Urchins surround him and take a kopek from him . The Tsar comes out of the Cathedral. “Bread, bread! Give the starving bread! Give us bread, father, for thesake of Christ!” cries the crowd. Goaded by the urchins, the Simple¬ton addresses the Tsar: “Order them to be killed, as you killed the little Tsarevitch”. Boris tells the boyars not to seize theSimpleton:

“Let him be! Pray for me, simple person...”
But the Simpleton replies:
“No, Boris! It can not be done!
How can one pray for a Tsar Herod?
Our Lady does not allow it...”

Act IV

Scene 6

A clearing in the forest near Kromy. Night-¬time. The peasants, who are in revolt, lead in a Kromy boyar whom they have taken pris¬oner. Theymake fun of the boyar, reminding him of all their grudges:

“You trained us the right way,
In storms and bad weather, and when roads were impassable,
You exploited us,
And whipped us with a slender lash...”

The arrival of the monks, Varlaam and Missail, who denounce the sins of Boris, the regicide, stirs up the crowd’s anger even more. They break out into a threatening song:

“A dashing young force is on the rampage,
The Cossack blood is all aflame!
A great subversive power has risen from the depths...”

Jesuit priests, the Pretender’s emissaries, appear. But the arrival of these foreigners arouses the crowd’s indignation. The peas¬ants drag the Jesuits into the forest to be hanged.

The Pretender, rides into the clearing, sur¬rounded by troops, Polish gentry and Jesu¬its. He frees the Kromy boyar. By promising his favor and protection, the Pretender per-suades the peasants tomarch on Moscow. The sky lights up with the glow of a fire. The alarm bell is rung. The Simpleton appears, looking round him in fear. His prophetic words of the new troubles that await the Russianpeople are spoken in anguish and pain:

“Flow, flow, bitter tears,
Cry, cry, Russian Orthodox soul!
Soon the enemy will come and darkness will fall,
Black, impenetrable darkness...”

Scene 7

The Granovitaya Chamber, in the Kremlin. A session of the Duma is in progress. The boyars are discussing what punishment sho¬uld be meted out to thePretender should he be caught. Shuisky appears. He describes the scene in the Tsar’s private apartment, when Boris drove off the apparition of the murdered Tsarevitch Dimitri. At this point, Boriscomes running in, shouting: “Away, away, child!” Catching sight of the boyars, he regains his self-control and asks them for advice and help. At this, Shuisky suggests to the Tsar that he listen to aholy man who has come to tell them of a great secret. Boris ag¬rees. Pimen is brought in. Pimen’s tale of the miraculous cure of a sick man at the gra-ve of the murdered Tsarevitch Dimitri, inUglich, is more than Boris can take and he falls senseless to the floor. Regaining conscious¬ness, the dying Tsar gives his son advice on how to protect his kingdom:

“Don not trust the slander of the seditious boyars,
Keep a vigilant watch over their secret dealings with Lithuania,
Punish treason without mercy, without charity punish it,
Listen carefully to what the people say -
for their judgement is not hypocritical...”

To the pealing of the funeral bell and the chanting of a choir of monks, the Tsar dies. The shocked Tsarevitch Fyodor, having paid his last respects to his father, rises to his feet...Andimmediately, Shuisky who, unse¬en, had crept ahead of him, blocks his way to the throne.