Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Mussorgsky - Boris Godunov / Nesterenko Piavko Arkhipova Yaroslavtsev Kalinina Sokolov Eisen Khaikin Bolshoi Opera|
Actors: Yevgeni Nesterenko, Vladislav Piavko, Irina Arkhipova, Boris Khaikin
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Universally acknowledged as the greatest of all Russian operas, this is a faithful and often dazzling production of the standard Rimsky-Korsakov version taped ³live² at the Bolshoi in 1978. As Boris, the renowned Yevgeni N... more »
This legendary performance at last has the DVD it deserves
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 12/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 1978 performance of Boris Godunov from the Bolshoi was previously released on a label called EmpireWorks, but that was an absolute abomination: no subtitles, no cast-role matching list, very poor video transfer, horrible sound. This Kultur video finally gets things right. There are subtitles, a complete cast list, and much superior video quality. It's worth the extra money to get *this* video, not the cheaper transfer, believe me.
This is probably about as good of a Boris Godunov as you're ever going to get on video. The video quality is a bit grainy, but the sets are sumptuous and really evoke the grandeur of a Russian Tsar's life. The only complaint I have is the uniformly hideous wigs. Pimen (Valery Yaroslavtsev) wears a long, flowing, white-haired wig, but for some reason has a lemon-yellow beard. Grigori (Vladislav Piavko) has a mountain-sized mole drawn on his forehead, and some kind of shoulder-length, Lucille-Ball-red wig with fried ends. Fyodor (Boris's son) is played by a woman and is wearing a 1960's style Jackie Kennedy "flip" bob and about a year's worth of eye shadow. I am not kidding about this.
The cast, however, is uniformly strong. None of the cast are particularly well-known in the West, but they all seem to "get" this opera -- its grandeur, its spirituality, and well, its Russian-ness. Yevgeni Nesterenko has a mixture of gravitas and guilt that are perfect for this role. Unlike many Russian singers, he is not saddled with a very hard, heavy vibrato -- his voice is surprisingly round and beautiful. His long Act 1 monologue is a real highlight of this performance. Nesterenko is masterful at conveying Boris's guilt and torment. Boris's farewell to his son is heart-wrenching.
Piavko as Grigori the Pretender is frighteningly fierce and ambitious. He has as a bright, ringing tenor voice. He also unfortunately has a tendency to shout. His is the type of voice that perhaps would not be appealing enough to cross over into Western audiences, but suits the role just fine. Aleksei Masslennikov is the Simpleton.
Boris Godunov is a man's opera, but it's great to see the female roles so well-cast. Marina's part is cut quite a bit, but Irina Arkhipova is excellent, although her voice unfortunately does have that hard, heavy Slavic vibrato. Galina Kalinina ie s a fine Xenia, although her role is rather small.
Boris Godunov is not perfect -- like a lot of operas that were heavily revised, sometimes scenes feel awkward. For instance, in Mussorgsky's original version there was no "love scene" between Grigori and Marina, and I think that was a wise choice. This marriage is based on ambition, not love. The Mariinsky censors basically ordered Mussorgsky to write a scene so there would be more female characters. But the scene feels out of place and tacked on.
The version performed is the Rimsky-Korsakov version that up until maybe 20 years ago was the standard version. Since then, there have been attempts to restore more of Modest Mussorgsky's orchestration and organization of the opera. The major change Rimsky-Korsakov made was the ordering of Act IV. In Mussorgsky's version, Boris's death is followed by Grigori's triumphant march to the throne as "Dmitri" and the opera ends with the Simpleton mourning the state of Russia. Rimsky-Korsakov switched the scenes, thus ending the opera with Boris's death. I can see the superiority of each ending. With Mussorgsky, by ending the opera with Grigori the Pretender's triumph, he makes the tragedy that of a country. Russia is once again stuck with a "Pretender" tsar. Rimsky-Korsakov, by switching the scenes, ends the opera on a deeply personal note -- Boris's farewell to his son. The heart of the opera is turned back to Boris.
But no matter what version, what a grand work it is. For one, I love the moral ambiguity of the opera. Is Grigori the Pretender any better than Boris? Both usurp the throne via deception. Boris at least is haunted by guilt, Grigori remains self-righteous. In the end, the Simpleton is right: the real tragedy of Boris Godunov is that one morally tainted Tsar has simply been replaced by another Pretender."
Kurt Hauptfuehrer | 04/07/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The performance in this DVD is superb throughout. This is a very strong cast vocally. The sets and costumes are magnificent, yet somber, reflecting the overall mood of the work. I thought the portrayal of Xenia should have been more emotional as she pours out her grief, but otherwise, the characterizations were very good. Nesterenko's portrayal of Boris is excellent, second only to Christoff who, in my opinion, was the greatest exponent of this role in the 20th century.
My concerns about this DVD stem from the extremely poor quality of the master tape from which it was made. Dropouts, glitches, and time base problems (mainly in the Coronation Scene) abound thoughout the recording, and are a constant distraction. I was grateful for the mostly undistorted sound, but found that I had to adjust the gain in my system frequently because of the uneven audio levels. The fact that the sound track is monaural is not unexpected given the date of this recording."
A Unique Performance
Listener | Ottawa, Canada | 12/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I own recordings of several productions of Boris Godunov. I have had this one on videotape for years, and have now ordered this DVD.
Aspects of the staging (e.g. makeup) are at times a little crude, BUT the performance is utterly superb. There has never been a Boris like Nesterenko - a latter-day Chaliapin without the melodrama - and this is Nesterenko at the absolute height of his powers as an artist.
Another credit to this superb ensemble is Aleksei Maslennikkov (the Simpleton), whose plaintive cries echo in the mind long after the performance is ended. The comic scene at the country inn is as memorable as the marvelous coronation, and the dialogue between Pimen and the false Dmitri. There is not a discordant note. This performance is a treasure, and I am delighted finally to have it on DVD."
A thoroughly enjoyable, traditional production.
Strategos | Alexandria, VA United States | 05/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Essentially, the choice is between this Bolshoi production of 1978 (Kultur) and the Mariinsky Theatre Tarkovsky production of 1990 (Philips). The 2004 Boris Godunov at Barcelona with Matti Salminen is not comparable: the characters walk around in business suits and the experience is quite some distance away from Pushkin's play and Mussgorsky's opera. Other DVDs on the market are either only of selections from the 1954 production, or without sub-titles (cheaper, but unless you follow Russian not much use), or from the mid- to late-1980s when the structural decay of the Bolshoi and continuous in-fighting had considerably lowered quality.
I have no hesitation in recommending the Kultur DVD. The production is traditional, the stage-sets are appropriate, the singing and acting are brilliant, and the conducting by Khaikin is impeccable. Yes, it's the Rimsky-Korsakov version of Mussorgsky's work. As Sir Denis Forman comments in "A Night at the Opera": 'in nearly every respect Rimsky's version wins. It depends whether you would spend a night on Balakirev's bare mountain or in the company of Scheherezade'. So I certainly don't agree with the over-heated comment of the reviewer who gave this DVD only one star because he considers that any presentation of the Rimsky-Korsakov version is a "crime".
Nesterenko, who plays Boris Godunov, is convincing and deeply tragic. Other reviewers seem to be put off by minor details - the quality of wigs, for instance. Don't let this kind of comment deter you from choosing this DVD. The power of the opera comes though fully, and it's a magnificent experience to which you'll want to return often. To quote Forman again, "It makes the Switzerland of 'William Tell', that most nationalistic of operas, seem like toytown. It makes Italian opera seem like light music. Its simplicity and directness make Wagner seem like Mad Max."
Unfortunately, as an earlier reviewer has commented, what's usually the first scene of Act 3 (Marina with the Jesuit Rangoni) has been cut in this production. But there's so much left to appreciate that this is an omission which can be overlooked.
Others have reviewed the DVD of the 1990 Tarkovsky production. Despite their glowing praise(I have this DVD also, but prefer the Bolshoi production), the choice is between a more operatic (the Bolshoi) and a more cinematic (the Mariinsky) production. The latter has typical Tarkowsky slow shots, a fair amount of overacting, and is unusually, weirdly, plush. Robert Lloyd is an acquired taste in the role of Boris. Olga Borodina in the role of Marina is very pretty, but at least to my ears Irina Arkhipova carries the music better. The panning in the scene with the vagabond monks in the inn is really "over the top", just like when Robert Lloyd just after his coronation rolls his eyes because the appearance of a beggar-boy happens to remind him of the murder of the legitimate heir. The liberties taken with the opera are many in the Tarkovsky production - there's no map in Boris' scene with his son; the old monk Pimen is not seated writing his endless chronicle, the simpleton whose tin hat is the object of the urchins' mockery doesn't have a tin hat, but a cowl. So the fit between what you hear and what you see is not great.
If you must see a DVD of Mussorgsky's (rather than Rimsky-Korsakov's) version, then by all means you should get the Philips DVD of the Mariinsky Theatre production. But an alternative to just hear Gergiev's masterly conducting of both the 1869 and 1874 (longer) versions by Mussorgsky is to buy the five CD set.
That way you'd get the chance to appreciate three versions - two on CD and one on DVD if you also get the Kultur DVD.
In short: if you're wondering which to buy, get the Kultur (Bolshoi, 1978) DVD. Don't take my word for it - you can watch a number of excerpts on Youtube, and compare them with a couple from the Mariinsky Theatre production, say of the coronation scene and the scene of the false Dmitri with Marina."