Thursday, October 28, 2010

Remarkable Григорий in The Met's Boris Godunov

This is one of my favorite operas and since it was one of the 4 Met's new productions this season, I obviously could not miss the live broadcast from New York last Saturday night.

Since there're many papers on Internet about the show, I have very little to say without risking to upset most of the people who actually liked what they could see. After 4 hrs 20 of Boris from The Met I thought the title I used to describe La donna del Lago --premiered last June in Paris-- was a perfect description of what I felt.

So I won't dissect the show but only broadly notice a strong contrast between the singers who were getting more and more awesome as the show progressed, and the growing evidence that the director was desperately rushing to get this piece over with -- no guiding idea, old-fashioned direction...

With that being said, I loved the bass-fest with Mikhail Petrenko, René Pape, Evgeny Nikitin, but to me the winner of the night was actually a tenor: Grigoriy by Aleksandrs Antonenko. Bless him!

Ed: If you're interested in seeing an inventive production of Boris, check out the Dimitri Tcherniakov's production at DKT in Copenhagen next January/February.


  1. Antonenko was right saying during the intermission of the HD Live transmission that the part of Grigoriy is difficult, but he managed to do good work there. I noticed a russian baritone, alexei markov, who had a relatively small part, but i liked his voice very much.

  2. The level of singing was ultra-high. It's too bad that the drama was so cruelly missing.

    I believe Grigoriy is as difficult to sing as Siegmund and even Siegfried. Antonenko remained awesome all the way.

  3. I can see how, given your preference for non-narrative stagings, you might not like the Wadsworth production, but I can also see how some of its interesting features might be lost to the HD transmission. E.g. the book of history which Pimen is working on but which continues to be important throughout the rest of the opera; the tableau of Boris as czar behind the monastery scene. Also, with the HD tendency towards close-ups, some of the impact of the perspective, people against their background, might have been lost?

    Perhaps obviously, I liked the production, although I wouldn't call it fantastic (without Rene Pape et al. animating it, it probably would have gotten boring!) but chacun a son gout, as Prince Orlofsky says. :)

  4. Hi OC,

    Somebody mentioned to me that Boris Godunov is an acquired taste. I think they were right. I am just very slowly starting to like it more and more.

    Do you know if Boris Godunov is considered a "feel-good opera" in Russia ?


  5. Antonenko - a powerhouse up and down the entire staff! Lordy! Was Alexi Markov one of those boyars who was writing everything down? That is a magnificent voice!

  6. Hi Lucy! For example, the history book bit lost its impact in close-ups (as well as the tablecloth-looking Map that Boris dragged in his first monologue). It looked amateurish and with Pimen sitting on the book color a few letters...

    The Met seriously needs someone like Herheim who is able to seduce everyone by a multitude of spectacular images which tell the story related to libretto and more. That "more" brings depth and extra-theater to the show, and it makes the experience independently of the singers. Imagine what this Wadsworth's show would be like if the singers were mediocre! Would be interesting to see the response of the Met crowd if Gelb purchased Herheim's Don Giovanni (it's more than 5 yrs old, so it's much cheaper), or Parsifal, or Rosenkavalier, or Rusalka. Many folks who a priori hate Regie, after 1 act of any of these shows surrender...

    Don't get me wrong. I know to take the positive and I'll remember this Boris for its fantastic singers.

  7. Hi Ben. I don't think Boris is a feel-good opera in Russia. Maybe it is for the nationalists who love it because it implicitly celebrates the great Russian history. For the more cultivated people it's one of the greatest Russian operas, so it's like a must-see patrimony.
    Boris can always spur some interesting discussions as it describes cruelty and despotism at one specific period in time, but runs like a 'fil rouge' through Russian history. This is why Tcherniakov's production is very audacious, clever, and also intellectually responsible.

  8. Antonenko rulz ;)
    Now I'm intrigued - Alexei Markov???
    That's maybe a backside of having such huge main roles so that the smaller ones necessarily remain in the shadow (even when brilliantly sung, which was certainly the case in this Boris)

  9. see some information here :
    He sang Scelkalov in Boris Godunov in the HD Live transmission, i liked his voice, but his role is short.

    He is also on youtube.

  10. Markov is awesome: Baden-Baden Iolantha with that wonderful Matilda aria, and he did the Barbican Mariinsky trip as Ivan in Brati Karamazov and Yelesky in Pique Dame. And lucky Dubliners - like me! - get him in concert next year with our fab new conductor Alan Buribayev.

    Totally agree with you about the utter tedium of the staging for Boris, but the singing was truly remarkable. Especially Rene Pape. (he's pulled out of the La Scala Walkure? Anyone know why?)

  11. Hey CIT! Long time no see. Where have you been hiding?!
    OK, Markov is my book ti check out next. He will be coming to Paris at TCE in May next year.

    Gotta dash... I'm in Munich and I did something very stupid... More tomorrow. Cheers ;)

  12. The instant the Met signs Herheim, I'm buying my tickets! :) I'd be delighted with his replacement for the powder-and-ruffles Rosenkavalier. For now it looks as though I'll have to rely on on DVDs for good Regietheater.

  13. Thanks for the info on Alexei Markov - I am glad I am not the only one who noticed this great talent!

  14. you are not the only one, i know of two more people, who noticed him too in boris godunov and think his singing great:-).
    and his looks is another of his strong qualities:-)