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Openings: La Scala opens with Musorgsky's Boris Godunov, Riccardo Chailly conducts, Ildar Abdrazakov stars
On stage the original version of 1869, directed by Kasper Holten
Organized by: Teatro alla Scala Foundation

Teatro alla Scala Foundation Presents

IS Boris Godunov of Modest Musorgsky the title that inaugurates the new Season of Teatro alla Scala, Wednesday December 7, 2022 (18.00), traditional before Sant'Ambrogio, on stage until 29 December with six other replicas.

On the podium of the Scaliger teams, the Maestro Riccardo Chailly, which has chosen to present the masterpiece of the Russian composer in the original version of 1869. The direction of the show is signed by Kasper Holten, the sets are by Es Devlin, the costumes of Ida Marie Ellekilde, the videos are edited by Luke Halls, the lights are of Jonas Bǿgh.

Protagonist on stage is Ildar Abdrazakov in the eponymous role, while they are performers of the other main parts Ain Anger like Pimen, Stanislav Trofimov like Varlaam, Dmitry Golovnin such as Grigory Otrepev e Norbert Ernst like Shuysky, while Lilly Jørstad is Fyodor. The Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala is directed by the Maestro Alberto Malazzi.

Boris Godunov for the second time it opens the Verona season, after the memorable edition directed by Claudio Abbado in 1979 and directed by Juri Ljubimov. Mussorgsky's monumental work has been a recurring title at Piermarini since the Italian premiere of 1909 commissioned by Toscanini (but directed by Edoardo Vitale), directed among others by Toscanini himself but also by Guarnieri, Votto, Gavazzeni and Gergiev,

For the inauguration of the 2022/2023 Opera Season, Boris Godunov will be staged in the original 1869 version, the so-called Ur-Boris, hee dismayed his contemporaries for his innovative and realistic traits both from a dramaturgical and musical point of view and focuses on the theme of individual guilt and its inevitable consequences.

A dark and current story which echoes the theme of Verdi's Macbeth with which the Teatro alla Scala inaugurated the 2021/2022 Season. We are in the 1598: with the death of Tsar Fyodor, guards and priests exhort the people to pray that the boyar Boris Godunov agrees to ascend the throne. Finally, the coronation takes place in the square of the Kremlin cathedrals in an imposing ceremony, however disturbed by some riots. In a cell of the Chudov monastery, the elderly monk Pimen is about to finish his chronicle of the events in Russia. The chronicle will report the truth about the assassination of Tsarevich Dimitri, the legitimate heir to the throne, perpetrated on Boris's orders. Pimen narrates the crime to the novice Grigory, who, being the same age as the Tsarevich, decides to pass himself off as him to lead a revolt against Boris to seize the throne. Grigorij takes refuge in Poland avoiding arrest by crossing the border with Lithuania. The last scenes narrate events that happened in 1604: the children of Boris, Xenia and Fëdor have grown up; the Tsar now governs a country exhausted by famine in which discontent is spreading among the people and rumors about the regicide committed are multiplying, while the rebel forces led by Grigory are pressing at the borders. Haunted by the tsarevich's ghost, Boris Godunov loses his mind and dies after a last exhortation to his son Fyodor.

Riccardo Chailly and Boris Godunov
Among the by now numerous paths that make up Riccardo Chailly's more than forty years of La Scala experience, the one that crosses the Russian repertoire has a particular importance. After the precocious debut on the podium of the Masnadieri in 1978, called by Abbado to replace Gavazzeni, in 1979 Chailly achieved a warm personal success conducting Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress at the Lirico, followed in 1981 by the critical and interpretative puzzle represented by Soročincy's Fair by Musorgsky, solved brilliantly. In 1994 it was the turn of Prokofiev's Angel of Fire, a success that many still remember. "During the first few seasons of my musical direction - explains the Maestro - I felt it necessary to focus exclusively on the Italian repertoire, with courses dedicated to Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Verdi's "Youth Trilogy" and the operas that had the their premiere. Today the time has come to give space to other voices that are fully part of the history of La Scala. Modest Musorgsky's Boris Godunov had its first Italian performance in our Theater in 1909 with the direction of Edoardo Vitale and Fëdor Šaljapin as the protagonist, and remained in the following seasons as a constant presence, in particular thanks to Arturo Toscanini who conducted it for four Seasons between 1922 and 1927, to Antonio Guarnieri who proposed it again in 1935, 1941 and 1946, and then, among others, to Antonino Votto and Gianandrea Gavazzeni. In 1979 Boris Godunov was the second non-Italian opera to inaugurate the Season on December 7 after Fidelio directed by Karl Böhm in 1974: an opening choice desired by Claudio Abbado who gave it a memorable interpretation together with the director Yuri Ljubimov. I was Abbado's assistant at the time and I remember the months of rehearsals to create a very innovative show which was also the subject of criticism but which has remained in the history of opera interpretation as well as in that of La Scala. Tullio Serafin wrote that the greatness of Boris is perhaps due to the gloomy realism with which Verdi depicts the vertigo of power in Macbeth. Presenting the two works in two consecutive inaugurations also takes on this meaning. This Boris Godunov, which as every December 7th will be filmed by the television cameras of Rai Cultura, is for me the essential point of arrival of a journey through Musorgsky's music that I began when I was very young directing the death scene of the protagonist in Florence and Bologna with a historic interpreter like Boris Christoff together with the Songs and Dances of Death, and which had an important stage in La Scala during the 1981 Mussorgsky Festival with The Fair of Soročincy directed by Sylvano Bussotti”.

The show
The show signed by Kasper Holten and his creative team offers a reading of the work centered on the themes of consciousness opposed to power and truth opposed to censorship. At the root of the director's reflection is the origin of the libretto, Pushkin's play, composed in 1825 and published in 1831. In tackling the epic of the "time of troubles", Pushkin was openly inspired by the great Shakespearean historical dramas, not only in grandeur of the fresco but also in the depth of the characters. On the other hand, it is interesting to observe how Shakespeare lived in the time of the historical Godunov. Some solutions adopted in the show are based precisely on Shakespeare's theater, such as the representation of the sense of guilt through the materialization of ghosts, real or imagined, on the stage. The specter of the Zarevič murdered by Boris to conquer power will be a recurring element, a visible sign of the guilt and finally of the madness of his assassin. Another element that will be placed in the foreground is the figure of Pimen, who we will see on stage from the outset intent on writing his chronicle, a truthful and therefore politically dangerous testimony of the facts that Boris and his scribes try to conceal. At the center of the exhibition will be exactly this reference to the truth and the need to bear witness to it. The viewer will be transported into Pimen's chronicle and therefore into history, in which past, present and future intersect and influence each other. A circular story in which violence returns as a constant.

The story, divided into seven scenes, is divided into two distinct parts which will be underlined by the insertion of an interval: in the first four scenes we witness the public coronation ceremony as a means of confusing and deceiving the people, the subversive testimony of truth of Pimen and Grigorij's decision to distort this truth to usurp power: in short we witness what happens to Boris by looking at him from the outside. In the remaining three scenes – which take place almost seven years later – we are together with Boris, we see how he tries to live with his guilt, we feel his fear and his path to madness. Here too the temporal planes intersect: the children of Boris, Fëdor and Xenia, will have the same fate as the Zarevič but also as many victims of the blind violence of Power. With the death of Boris, a circle made of ink and blood closes, in which we see history and its narration represented together. * (Boris Godunov, Teatro alla Scala, photocredit Brescia & Amisano)    


The premiere on December 7 will be proposed by Rai Cultura live exclusively on Rai1 starting at 17.45. The show, directed by Arnalda Canali, is broadcast also live on Radio3, on Rai1 HD channel 501 and on RaiPlay, where it can be viewed for 15 days after the Premiere. Rai Com will distribute the opera live in cinemas.

An hour before the start of each performance there will be the usual introduction to the show, by Professor Elisabetta Fava.
Openings: La Scala opens with Musorgsky's Boris Godunov, Riccardo Chailly conducts, Ildar Abdrazakov stars

Other information of interest

Versions of Boris

“For his ninth opening of the season – explains a note from the Theater – the Maestro Riccardo Chailly he chose to direct Boris Godunov in first version in seven scenes submitted by Musorgsky at the Imperial Theaters of St. Petersburg in 1869.

The work, among the greatest masterpieces of musical theatre, has a complex gestation and history. The composer, born into a family of landowners and turned to music abandoning his military career, had suffered the economic consequences of the abolition of serfdom, reducing himself to an uncertain and precarious life, undermined by alcohol and epilepsy. Boris Godunov is his first opera, and breaks the conventions of the musical theater of the time with disruptive effects. The booklet, fist of the composer, draws on the tragedy of Pushkin and to the History of the Russian State by Alexander Karamzin to draw a Shakespearean drama of guilt against the background of the so-called "time of troubles" (1598 -1614), the years of anarchy between the death of Ivan the Terrible and the advent of the Romanovs. To do this, Musorgsky imagines a visionary and anticipatory musical language that breaks up the closed forms of traditional opera in favor of an absolute adherence to the morphology of the Russian language. After little more than a year of work, from October 1868 to December 1869, Musorgsky presents to the commission of the Imperial Theaters of St. Petersburg a radically innovative work: divided into 7 scenes, it does not have closed numbers, it does not contain a sentimental plot, it does not have any important female part but it does not even include a heroic or amorous tenor. It is the so-called Ur-Boris o Original Boris - dense, gloomy, deep. Today La Scala presents it as the inaugural title; it was then far too unusual for the commission, which rejected it by six votes to one.

The composer then proceeds between 1871 and 1872, at a time when he shares a room with Rimsky-Korsakov, to a radical overhaul (the so-called "original version”) which includes the addition of three new scenes. Two make up the spectacular "Polish act" in which not only a series of popular songs intervene to dampen the general gloom, but the tenor voice of Grigorij (the "false Dimitri") finds space and heroic expansion alongside Marina, the female character who it was missing from the first version. The third, which reworks themes of the "scene of the innocent", shifts the ending from the humble tones of Boris's death to the grandiose revolt in the forest of Kromy. Not only is the continuity broken in favor of a "picture dramaturgy" that moves between different places and times, but all the music is rewritten by attenuating the realism in favor of a more accentuated lyrical momentum. The revision was sufficient to get the opera performed, which was staged at the Mariinsky on 8 February 1874, but not to decree its success. Critics and colleagues accused the author of bad taste and musical ignorance: in fact a real lynching.

The survival of the title on the scene is largely due to revision completed by Nikolaj Rimsky-Korsakov in 1896, which reinvents the work by covering it with a luxuriant orchestration of immense seduction but in stark contrast to the rough and severe colors desired by Musorgsky. Meanwhile in 1928 the Russian musicologist Pavel Lamm publish one critical review including the two original versions in the score, respectful of the will of the author and his very accurate manuscripts. There world premiere of Ur-Boris takes place on February 16th 1928 in Leningrad. A new version is then prepared by Shostakovich between 1939 and 1940 and is staged in Moscow in 1959. The definitive enforceable collection of the Ur-Boris will have to wait for the version of the Kirov directed by Valery Gergiev in 1992.

The different versions of Boris, observes Franco Pulcini, reflect different moments of national sentiment in Russia: the rejection of both versions desired by Musorgsky reflects the sense of inferiority of nineteenth-century Russians towards European culture and their fear of appearing primitive, brutal, savages. A sentiment to which the instrumental mastery of Rimsky-Korsakov offers refuge with its fairy-tale hue that attenuates the violence of the author's realism. The Soviet era, on the other hand, influences Shostakovich's version in which the Polish act becomes a metaphor for the fear of external aggression felt by the Russians during the Cold War years. The Ur-Boris, with its Shakespearean accents and its almost religious reflection on the Dostoevskian themes of crime, guilt, inevitable punishment and the coexistence of good and evil, presents more than other versions a character of universality.


Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala
Children's Choir of the Accademia Teatro alla Scala

Director Riccardo Chailly
Direction Kasper Holten

Scenes Es Devlin
Costumes Ida Marie Ellekilde
Lights Jonas Bogh
Video Luke Halls

Boris Godunov Ildar Abdrazakov
Fyodor Lilly Jørstad
Ksenia Anna Denisova
Ksenia's nurse Agnieszka Rehlis
Vasily Shuisky Norbert Ernst
Shchelkalov Alexey Markov
Pimen Ain Anger
Grigory Otrepev Dmitry Golovnin
Varlaam Stanislav Trofimov
Misail Alexander Kravets
The innkeeper Maria Barakova
The Jurodivyi Yaroslav Abaimov
Pristav, head of the guards Oleg Budaratsky
Mitjucha, man of the people Roman Astakhov
A court boyar Vassily Solodkyy

New Teatro alla Scala Production


Modest Petrovich Musorgsky
Boris Godunov

Popular musical drama in a prologue and three acts (1869 version)
Libretto by Modest Petrovich Musorgsky


7 December 2022 at 18 "before", opening night of the 2022-23 Season
10 December 2022 at 8pm
December 13, 2022 at 8pm
December 16, 2022 at 8pm
20 December 2022 at 8pm
23 December 2022 at 8pm
29 December 2022 at 8pm

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