The Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov starring René Pape as Boris and conducted by Valery Gergiev, will air on Thirteen’s Great Performances Sunday, February 13 at 12 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). (In New York, Thirteen will air the program Thursday, February 10 at 8 p.m. ET.) Stephen Wadsworth directs the company’s first new production of the opera since 1974. The program was originally seen live in movie theaters on October 23, 2010 as part of the groundbreaking The Met: Live in HD series, which transmits live performances to more than 1500 movie theaters and performing arts centers in 46 countries around the world.
Adapted from a play by Alexander Pushkin about the extraordinary reign of the 16th-century tsar, Boris Godunov is regarded as one of the masterpieces of the Russian operatic repertoire. The Met’s new production of Mussorgsky’s epic political tragedy was praised by critics following the first performance on October 11: The Associated Press declared “Bravo, Boris!…a huge success on every count — from the superb cast led by bass René Pape in the title role to the inspired conducting of Valery Gergiev to the remarkably fluid and psychologically acute direction by Stephen Wadsworth.” The Wall Street Journal called the performance “an engrossing theatrical event” and cited the production as a “deeply moving, complex and tragic portrait of Russia that melds historical sweep with intimate and detailed personal encounters.” Pape “is ideal for the role” of the guilt-ridden tsar, said The New York Times, and “riveting in Boris’s death scene.”
The title role of Boris Godunov is a touchstone role for operatic basses, a tour de force for an artist who can command the requisite powerful vocal and dramatic skills. The role of Boris has been played at the Met by such legendary basses as Fyodor Chaliapin, Ezio Pinza, and George London.
René Pape has built a reputation as a consummate singing-actor at the Met, including acclaimed roles in Tristan und Isolde, Parsifal, Don Giovanni, Faust, and Don Carlo, and his American debut in the role of Boris was highly anticipated.
The new production also features a number of leading singers performing Boris Godunov for the first time at the Met. The cast includes Latvian tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko as Grigory/The Pretender Dimitri; and Russian mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk as Princess Marina. Other notable Russian singers making their Met role debuts in this production are bass-baritone Evgeny Nikitin as Rangoni, bass Mikhail Petrenko as Pimen, and tenor Oleg Balashov as Shuisky. Bass Vladimir Ognovenko reprises his portrayal of Varlaam, which he first performed with the Met in a 1997 run of performances conducted by Gergiev.
Many of the Met cast members have performed Boris Godunov with Gergiev at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater, where he is artistic director and where the opera had its 1874 premiere.
The production’s creative team includes Academy Award-nominated costume designer Moidele Bickel, prominent European set designer Ferdinand Wögerbauer, and choreographer Apostolia Tsolaki, all in their Met debuts.
The Met’s new production is primarily based on the 1875 version of the opera but will incorporate some music from the composer’s original 1869 score, notably in Boris’s Act II monologue in the Kremlin, and the entire St. Basil scene which opens Act IV. The 1874 revision is the basis for the ending of Act III, scene 2 (the end of the “Polish” act). Mussorgsky’s original orchestrations will be used.
Great Performances at the Met: Boris Godunov is directed for television by Brian Large and hosted by soprano Patricia Racette. Jay David Saks is the music producer. The performance is sung in Russian with English subtitles.
Great Performances is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, public television viewers and PBS. Corporate support for Great Performances at the Met is provided by Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home-builder®. Major support for the Met telecast was provided by Mrs. Mona Webster.
For the Met, Mia Bongiovanni and Elena Park are Supervising Producers, and Louisa Briccetti and Victoria Warivonchik are Producers. Peter Gelb is Executive Producer. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is Series Producer; David Horn is Executive Producer.