[Met Performance] CID:125400
Boris Godunov {88} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/7/1939.


Metropolitan Opera House
March 7, 1939
Benefit sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild
for the Reserve Fund
In Italian


Boris Godunov...........Ezio Pinza
Prince Shuisky..........Alessio De Paolis
Pimen...................Norman Cordon
Grigory.................Charles Kullman
Marina..................Kerstin Thorborg
Rangoni.................Leonard Warren
Varlaam.................Virgilio Lazzari
Simpleton...............Erich Witte
Nikitich................John Gurney
Shchelkalov.............Leonard Warren
Innkeeper...............Doris Doe
Missail.................Giordano Paltrinieri
Xenia...................Marita Farell
Feodor..................Irra Petina
Nurse...................Anna Kaskas
Lavitsky................Wilfred Engelman
Chernikovsky............Arnold Gabor
Boyar in Attendance.....Erich Witte

Act III, Scene 2 Polonaise - Arranged by Boris Romanoff
Corps de Ballet

Conductor...............Ettore Panizza

Orchestration by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Director................Leopold Sachse
Set designer............Alexander Golovine
Set designer............Alexander Benois [Polish Scene only]
Costume designer........Ivan Bilibine
Choreographer...........Boris Romanoff
Translation by M.Delines, E. Palermi, G. Pardo

Synopsis of Scenes
Act I, Scene 1: The wall of Novodievitchi Convent, in the Great Environs of Moscow
Act I, Scene 2: A cell in the Convent of Miracles
Act I, Scene 3: The square between the two Cathedrals of the Assumption and of the Archangels

Act II, Scene 1: An inn on the frontier of Lithuania
Act II, Scene 2: Apartments of the Czar in the Kremlin at Moscow

Act III, Scene 1: Room of Marina in the Castle of Michek, Poland
Act III, Scene 2: Garden of the Castle

Act IV, Scene 1: The forest of Kromy
Act V, Scene 2: Hall of the Duma in the Kremlin

Boris Godunov received two performances this season.

Review of Pitts Sanborn in the New York World-Telegram:

Revived at the Metropolitan (again in Italian) after an absence of ten years from these august precincts, "Boris Godunov" came back last evening adorned with the scene in Marina's boudoir, which in previous Metropolitan performances had always been omitted. At least one other restoration was also remarked. The production was in many ways creditable. The refurbished scenery looked well. The costuming was for the most part excellent. Great care had evidently been expended on the stage direction, often with good results. The dancing of the polonaise by the corps de ballet found favor though purists might raise the question of authenticity.

Furthemore, the entire performance was well integrated. For once real team work. Thus Ezio Pinza had substantial support in his first local attempt at the role of the tortured tsar, a part he had sung before in Italy and South America. Mr. Pinza's Boris proved to be a most painstaking portrayal, intelligently planned and conscientiously wrought. But whether he penetrated much below the surface is a moot question. His voice, resonant at first, became perceptibly hoarse as the evening proceeded. His diction, though, was always a model of clearness.

The elaborate ballet made some difficulty for Marina, but Kerstin Thorborg comported herself bravely and sang with commendable effect. The restored Marina scene, however, was most noteworthy for the singing of the Jesuit by Leonard Warren. Charles Kullmann, strikingly dressed, supplied an uncommonly dramatic Dimitri.

Review of Francis D. Perkins in the New York Herald Tribune


Pinza Sings Czar role of Moussorgsky opera in benefit for Metropolitan

Ten years, minus a week, after the last preceding time the tragic Czar Boris Godunoff, then impersonated by the late Feodor Chaliapin, died his epic and memorable death on the Metropolitan Opera stage, Moussorgsky's incomparable music drama was revived there yesterday evening in a special performance under the sponsorship of the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Ezio Pinza, who had already sung the role of Boris in Italy and had been the pious historiographic monk, Pimen, in the last Metropolitan performance of "Boris" in 1929, made his first American appearance as the Czar before an audience of large numbers and much enthusiasm, of which several members had begun their vigil before the Metropolitan's doors several hours before Ettore Panizza conducted the first bars of Moussorgsky's music. General Manager Edward Johnson, in a short speech before the last act, said that the receipts had provided a substantial sum for the Metropolitan's reserve fund, the beneficiary of the performance, and warmly thanked the conductor, stage and choral directors, soloists, choristers and instrumentalists.

With an entirely new cast, the opera was presented with the familiar and admirable settings and costumes imported from Paris for the Metropolitan's memorable original production of 1913, duly refurbished for their reappearance, and the Rimsky-Korsakoff revision of the score which has been employed for all performances of "Boris" here thus far by this and other companies. There was an innovation, however, in the inclusion of the hitherto omitted first Polish scene in Marina's room, here simply indicated by an interior curtain. The language, as before, was Italian, minus the bilingual element element of the days when Mr. Chaliapin sang his role in Russian; Mr. Pinza, naturally enough, used, his own native tongue.

Of the eminent Italian basso's Boris, there will be more time to speak in detail when the opera is repeated next Friday night, and doubtless further opportunity next season. It offers much to admire; it tells of an intent and thorough study of one of the most taxing and rewarding roles in the history of opera. His singing was generally admirable in tone and expressiveness, and he was especially happy in the scenes revealing Boris's fatherly tenderness, and, in the last scene, in suggesting a ruler bowed and broken by the result of his initial crime and by circumstances beyond his control. The delineation, however, is not as yet dramatically complete; the waxing madness, the overwhelming and sudden angers of Boris, as we are led to imagine him, were less convincingly portrayed, despite much dramatic poignancy in the conscience-tortured soliloquy in the fifth scene, and especially at the close when Boris, exhausted, asks for mercy on his soul. This indeed, is a character whose full realization by a singing actor is a matter of long experience with the role.

Boris himself appears only in three scenes of the opera in this version. To understand its full significance as a national music drama, in which the Russian people, as well as Boris, are protagonists, requires an exceptionally well-balanced, carefully prepared and generally imaginative production. This the Metropolitan has striven hard to achieve, and certain scenes, especially that in the Forest of Kromy, where the false Dmitri and his cheering followers march off to victory, leaving the solitary idiot to lament plangently the inevitable coming woes, had a marked emotional impressiveness. Yet some of the essential atmosphere of the drama, some of the strongly individual color, flavor and profile of the music seemed at times to remain unrevealed; the atmosphere reigned, here and there, more strongly in what was to be seen than in what was to be heard. One factor may have been a sense that the production had not yet achieved the spontaneity which may be expected later on, and which became more in evidence as the performance took its course. But it also seemed, from time to time, that the musical interpretation in itself, despite its merits, that it was expressing a not yet entirely mastered new musical language. This impression may be stronger now than it would have been ten years ago owing to memories of the persuasive, if not always polished, Russian performances given here in 1935 by the "Art of Musical Russia" company. This impression might have been lessened had it proved feasible to present "Boris", in a good English translation, instead of Italian, but the practical considerations calling for the return of "Boris" in Italian, as before, must await discussion at some future time.

The restored Polish scene does not represent Moussorgsky's best music, but gave opportunity for longer acquaintance with Mme. Thorborg's stately and expressive. Marina-a handsome princess despite a not particularly becoming red wig. Mr. Kullmann's Grigori, or Dmitri, rather tentatively outlined at first, gained later in dramatic conviction; Mr. Cordon's Pimen was benign and dignified, but not characterized by marked individuality. Mr. Lazzari was an effectively roistering Varlaam. Mr. De Paolis a rather colorless Shuisky. Miss Doe's sympathetic and well sung Innkeeper merits mention as one of the superior performances among the minor roles. The chorus, after overcoming an initial cautiousness provided some very laudable singing.

Photograph of Ezio Pinza in the title role of Boris Godunov by Wide World Studio.

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