Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Boris Godunov, Samuel Ramey, SF Opera

Wednesday Nov. 12, 2008.  SF Opera.

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky's original 1869 version, with libretto by Modest.  Based on a historical tragedy by Pushkin and History of the Russian State by Karamzin.  Starring Samuel Ramey as Boris, and Jack Gorlin as Fyodor, son of Boris.  Jack Gorlin was the Little Prince in Rachel Portman's The Little Prince.  At 12, he's already a consummate stage presence.  

It refreshing to see the original version, which has been revised many times like a Hollywood movie:  It isn't slick enough!  We need a leading lady!  We need a romance to bring in the women! 

The true romance is of course between Boris and Power.  (How very Russian!)  The opera opens with a scene of serfs being beaten and forced to cheer for Boris, an archetypal introduction to an archetypal drama.  This scene should have been darker and scarier.  The opera has many highlights, notably a chiming, glittering coronation scene (with synthesized bells I think at SF Opera).  

Boris Godunov has a raw power and energy to it which, in addition to being a hallmark of the Russian nationalist school, is a welcome breath of fresh air in the opera house, even today.

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