A Vivid and Intense Boris Godunov By the Lyric Opera Of Chicago

United StatesUnited States  Mussorgsky, Boris Godunov: Soloists, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Sir Andrew Davis (conductor), Civic Opera House, Chicago. 26.11.2011 (JLZ)


Boris Godunov: Ferruccio Furlanetto
Shuisky: Štefan Margita
Pimen: Andrea Silvestrelli
Varlaam: Raymond Aceto
Grigori: Erik Nelson Werner
Missail: David Cangelosi
Tchelkalov: Ljubomir Puškarić
Holy Fool: Edward Mout
Fyodor: Emily Fons


Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis
Original Production: Stein Winge
Stage Director: Julia Pevzner
Set Designer: Göran Wassberg
Costume Designer: Kari Gravklev
Lighting Designer: Duane Schuler
Chorus Master: Michael Black


Ferruccio Furlanetto Boris Godunov (c) Dan-Rest

The current performance of Boris Godunov at the Lyric Opera of Chicago is a revival of a production from 1994-1995. It uses the original 1869 version of Mussorgsky’s score. (There are also the composer’s 1873 revision, the so-called “Polish,” Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s version and most recently Shostakovich’s.) The original libretto consists of seven scenes without conventional act divisions. (In this performance, there was an intermission after the fifth scene.)

Those familiar as well as unfamiliar with this version of Boris will find the Chicago production to be vivid and intense with excellent staging and outstanding singing. The cast was uniformly strong, with Ferruccio Furlanetto standing out for his sensitive and dignified depiction of the title character. His Boris was complex, as demonstrated in his poignant scene five monologue: “Dostig ya výshey vlásti” in which Boris advises his son Fyodor about the difficult times they were experiencing during his reign. Even more impressive was the final “farewell” scene (“Proscháy moy syn”) and Furlanetto’s passionate address to his son before dying. As the curtain fell, the staging intensified the moment, with the antagonist Shuisky lurking menacingly – a dagger visible in his hands – and Boris’s son Fyodor clinging to the throne.

Among the fine cast was Andrea Silvestrelli as Pimen, giving his monologue on Russian history (“Yeshchó odnó poslyédneye skazánye”) clearly and insightfully. The young monk Grigori played by Erik Nelson Werner was especially engaging when, at the opera’s conclusion, his scheming against Boris leads to his attempt to flee the country. Rapt applause was given to Raymond Aceto for his vibrant characterization of Varlaam in the ballad “Kak vo górode býlo vo Kazáne.”

The choral singing in the first, second and sixth scenes – the prologue, coronation and “Saint Basel” scenes, respectively were made memorable by the finely blended and precise playing of the musicians. Such an effective performance is also attributable to the sensitive work of Sir Andrew Davis. Through his focus and attention to details and his exceptional handling of the transitions between scenes, Davis made this Boris a powerful part of an already impressive season.

James L. Zychowicz