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Mariinsky Opera’s Boris Godunov comes to Orange County

Orange County
Orange County Performing Arts Center
10/13/2006 -  14, 15 October
Modest Mussorgsky : Boris Godunov
Vladimir Ognovenko (Boris), Nikolay Gassiev (Shuisky), Gennady Bezzubenkov (Pimen), Oleg Balashov (Dmitry, the Pretender), Vasily Gerello (Shelkalov), Yevgeny Akimov (The Fool), Maria Matveeva (Fyodor), Irina Mataeva (Xenia), Nadezhda Vassilieva (Xenia’s Wet Nurse), Mikhail Petrenko (Varlaam), Viktor Vihrov (Missail), Lyubov Sokolova (Hostess of the Inn), Grigory Karasev (Nikitich/Constable), Andrey Spekhov (Boyar), Edem Umerov (Mityukha)
Victor Kramer (Stage Director), Georgy Tsypin (Set Designer), Tatiana Noginova (Costumer Designer), Gleb Filshtinsky (Lighting Designer), Irina Soboleva (Musical Preparation),
Mariinsky Theatre, Valery Gergiev (Conductor).

Although he only lived to the age of 42, it is amazing to see the accomplishments Modest Mussorgsky made to 19th Century music. Highly individualistic in style, the self-taught composer’s first endeavor in musical composition was the unusual gift of writing his own lyrics at the same time developing his musical acumen.

This native of the Pskov District portrayed works with a degree of directness and realism, often writing about a variety of diverse subject matters. Today, Mussorgsky is best known for his historical drama, Boris Godunov that magnificently captures the struggle of royal Russian power after the death of Ivan the Terrible in 1584.

October 2006 marks a historic time for the Orange County Performing Arts Center with the opening of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. To celebrate this occasion Orange County is very fortunate to have Russia’s Mariinsky Theatre present several works in a variety of genres, including the Kirov Opera’s Boris Godunov.

Under the leadership of Artistic and General Director Valery Gergiev, this Mussorgsky work came to life with much intensity and astounding success. The opening of Boris Godunov began with the Kirov Orchestra’s exceptional talents by providing precise dynamics within the score to match specific situations on stage.

Vladimir Ognovenko’s Boris was spellbinding through the lucid display of his guilt-ridden past which eventually leads to his demise. Ognovenk’s success in the title role could not be complete without the other cast members’ accomplishments.

Through the years there have been several revisions made to the opera by the composer himself as well as his compatriots, Rimsky-Korsakov and Shostakovich. The Kirov Opera chose to perform Mussorgsky’s original 1869 version consisting of seven acts.

Far from the traditional, the talented Georgy Tsypin modernized Boris Godunov to a minimalist, yet inventive production by rising and falling elaborately textured columns (such as in the Coronation Scene), and disturbingly mutated onion domes (as found on Moscow’s Kremlin). The opening Novodyevichy Monastery had the masses corralled by a rope while intensifying their plight by two sets of moveable carts decked with horizontal sets of fluorescent-type lights, thus accentuating their clothes and tormented facial expressions. This was a highly effective technique. By reducing the elaborateness of sets Tsypin enabled the audience to fully absorb the emotions of the characters with the aid of powerful orchestral interludes.

All this was complimented by Gleb Filshtinsky’s and Titiana Noginova’s craftsmanship as Lighting and Costume Directors, respectively. All the elements were present to make this an enthralling Russian spectacle.

Boris Godunov is in the repertoire of most major opera houses, and predominately performed on a regular basis on its native soil. Domestically speaking, the opera appears rather infrequently. Nonetheless, Boris Godunov is grand Russian opera at its best, yet so unusual it cannot compare to any well known Western European masterpiece. The Mariinsky Theatre allows Orange County to experience a most treasured and memorable piece.

Christie Grimstad



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