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Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov (Bayerisches Staatsorchester / Kent Nagano) [DVD] [2014] [NTSC]

Alexander Tsymbalyuk , Yulia Sokolik    Exempt   DVD

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Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov (Bayerisches Staatsorchester / Kent Nagano) [DVD] [2014] [NTSC] + Eugene Onegin: Metropolitan Opera (Gergiev) [DVD] [2014]
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Child murder, scheming monks and a Tsar lapsing into madness Modest Mussorgsky spread the thematic arc wide in his choral opera, which he began to work on from 1868, and with which he attempted to awaken an awareness of his own time through the indirect route of a historic story. As an artist of the 19th century, he was driven by the psychology of the masses. Thus, in 'Boris Godunov', alongside the hero of the title, the main role is actually taken primarily by the Russian people, rejoicing, starving, demanding and questioning. In conjuction with conductor Kent Nagano, Spanish stage director Calixto Bieito proposes an original reading of this brilliant work. The cast is led by Alexander Tsymbalyuk (Boris), with associates Gerhard Siegel (Schuisky), Markus Eiche (Chelkalov) and Anatoli Kotscherga (Pimen).

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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Humanist-reformer stage director guts Mussorgsky's religious mysticism. 7 Mar 2014
By Ronald Haak - Published on
First of all, google the name Calixto Bieito and run through the first five entries, especially the one in Wikipaedia. These will give you abundant information on his track record & why not to waste your time / money on this latest one.

In his conception and staging, Bieito throws out the religious intoxication and mystical desperation definitive of the Russian masses envisaged by Mussorgsky and replaces it with his humanist, reformist message that the people everywhere need a break and that all rulers everywhere are remote. "Power to the People!" would solve everything. Bieito's social location is not in any special country. It embodies a trend that has been occuring widely here and there in recent times. It's very reminiscent of 1984 --- both the opera and the film starring Richard Burton. This entirely satisfies Bieito. In an interview in the program notes, he acknowledges that his humanist rage at the callousness of those in power today drives his conceptions: "The core part of directing is the need to express something that's inside you and has to come out. It's a really strong need."

***** It would be better if he had a strong need to express what is inside Mussorgsky's music / vision, instead of shoving his own agenda forward and turning the production into a form of psychodrama to air his own ideas. *******

In the program notes, Bieito makes the silly statement that Mussorgsky's Boris Gudunov "depicts . . . a society that is very similar to today's, where the social, economic and cultural distinctions between a minority and a majority are steadily growing. Where the broad mass of people doesn't know why, where or by whom the decisions that affect their daily lives are made." With this orientation Bieito airily cancels Mussorgsky's Orthodox Christian vision, the delirious yearning to have Boris partake of an apotheois that will answer their needs to have a ruler saturated by the blessings of God. Bieito offers us instead a secular plea for better participatory democracy, the clean up of city hall and an end to "the acquisition of wealth at the expense of the people. . . The common people in Boris Gudunov can't rebel (because] they're like us, passive creatures, the victim of manipulation by huge economic structures." This call to revolution and a more just society is closer to Che Guevara or Rosa Luxemburg than the immersion of Mussorgsky in the mystical, religious, collective unconscious of the Russian people that's not interchangeable with populations elsewhere. A line from the chorus says, "to be Russian is to take on eternal sadness" --- this is Christian resignation without a glance toward the kind of reform so dear to Bieito and that, as he says, he personally "has this strong need to express".

Bieito's humanist message, as he spells it out in the program notes, is big hearted and humane but hardly different from that of any socially conscious undergraduate. That Mussorgsky should be eviscerated for it and staging set up for thugs in an alley + all purpose fascist uniforms with religion banished entirely shows us a stage director of vain glorious appetites.
And the production is grotesque and ill fitting as a result.
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