[Met Performance] CID:54660
United States Premiere
Boris Godunov {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/19/1913.

(Debuts: Leopoldo Mariani, Alexander Benois, Ivan Bilibine, Alexander Golovine
Reviews)


Metropolitan Opera House
March 19, 1913
United States Premiere
In Italian

BORIS GODUNOV {1}
Mussorgsky-Mussorgsky

Boris Godunov...........Adamo Didur
Prince Shuisky..........Angelo Badà
Pimen...................Léon Rothier
Grigory.................Paul Althouse
Marina..................Louise Homer
Varlaam.................Andrés De Segurola
Simpleton...............Albert Reiss
Nikitich................Giulio Rossi
Shchelkalov.............Vincenzo Reschiglian
Innkeeper...............Jeanne Maubourg
Missail.................Pietro Audisio
Xenia...................Lenora Sparkes
Feodor..................Anna Case
Nurse...................Maria Duchène
Lavitsky................Vincenzo Reschiglian
Chernikovsky............Louis Kreidler
Boyar in Attendance.....Leopoldo Mariani [Debut]
Undesignated role.......Lambert Murphy
Undesignated role.......Bernard Bégué

Conductor...............Arturo Toscanini

Orchestration by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Director................Jules Speck
Set designer............Alexander Golovine [Debut]
Set designer............Alexander Benois [Debut]
Costume designer........Ivan Bilibine [Debut]
Translation by M.Delines, E. Palermi, G. Pardo,.

Boris Godunov received four performances this season.

[This production, commissioned by the impresario Serge Diaghilev, was first performed in Paris at the Théâtre Châtelet in 1908. Golovine designed most of the scenery, while Alexander Benois created decor for the Polish Scene. The Inn Scene was added for the New York production, probably designed by James Fox. The orchestration by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov was performed until 3/6/53.]

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 II, Scene 3: Garden of the Castle of Michek

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


Review of Richard Aldrich in The New York Times:

The Metropolitan Opera House made its second production of a new opera last evening, when it gave the first performance in America of Modest Moussorgsky's opera "Boris Godounoff." The occasion was a notable one. There was, of course, a large audience, such as a first night production attracts as a matter of course. It brought before the public an operatic work of a sort wholly new to it; a work of a Russian composer in the most uncompromising Russian style-a work that is unmistakably intended for the Russian audience, that has in it much that makes a special appeal to such an audience and is even in certain parts hardly intelligible to any other, so deeply is it saturated with the Russian spirit and so exclusively concerned with the history, manners, customs, characters, scenes and surroundings of Russia, the general outlook of the Russian people, and especially, so deeply rooted in it in the soil of the Russian folk-song.

The interest that "Boris Godounoff" has to an Occidental audience is furnished by the elemental power of its inspiration and execution, the vividness of its emotional expression, the picturesqueness of most of its scenes and, to a remarkable degree, the novel and seizing imaginative quality of its music, often rude and unpolished, filled now with a grim sadness and gloom and now with boisterous gayety, now with grace and vivacity, and rising with relentless power to the tragic culmination of the work.

The production at the Metropolitan was a remarkable one in many ways; most strikingly so, perhaps in the scenic investiture that was given it. This was the self-same setting in which the opera was presented in Paris five years ago, when it created a deep impression as performed by a company of Russian singers. The scenery was painted in Russia and brought to the French capital. The Metropolitan management bought the whole outfit, including the costumes; and together they form one of the most brilliant, imposing and characteristic stage settings seen at the Metropolitan Opera House-a setting that may be assumed to represent the scenes of the opera with a fidelity not often attained.

"Boris Godounoff" has no principal tenor part, no principal soprano or contralto part. There is only a very subordinate and almost unintelligible "love interest." If it is any singer's opera, it is the basso's who represent Czar Boris; but it is more than all else the chorus's opera. The chorus has really the star part in the work; and the most effective and profoundly impressive movements in the performance last evening were divided by the chorus-unequally with Mr. Didur, who, it may be said at once, gave a remarkably vivid and dramatically thrilling impersonation of the remorseful Czar, by far the most successful and distinguished achievement he has made in New York.

The audience was large and received the opera with a first night cordiality. The singers were recalled repeatedly after each fall of the curtain, Mr. Didur especially being summoned many times after his powerful scene in the apartment in the Kremlin. It was appropriate too, that Mr. Setti, the chorusmaster, should appear after the great choruses in the first act, superbly sung...

The performance under Mr. Toscanini's direction had in every scene the impress of his master hand and the certainly of his touch. It was a superbly vigorous and at the same time finished performance of a score offering innumerable difficulties of an unaccustomed sort. Of Mr. Didur's intensely dramatic impersonation of Boris mention has already been made. One of the most interesting features of the performance was the appearance of Mr. Paul Althouse as the false Dimity-a young American tenor who made then his operatic début. He has a voice of unusual beauty of quality and a style of vocalism that brings it forth to the greatest advantage. Last evening he was in poor voice, and there was a question of his being able to appear, but he carried through the part successfully.

Mr. De Segurola makes a richly detailed character study of the drunken monk Vaarlam; Mr. Reiss is fitted like a glove with the part of the Simpleton; Miss Anna Case is a charming figure and sings with equal charm as the young Czarewitch Theodore, and Mme. Homer does brilliantly what little she has to do as Marina.



Additional Press comments from distinguished critics

W. J. Henderson in the Sun

: "Boris Godunoff" is a work of real power. Its use of the characteristic melodic sequences, rhythms and harmonies of Russian music is extraordinary for the facility and certainty with which it makes the distinctive requirements of musical drama. The development of the grand choral climaxes is in every case both dramatic and musical, and in no other opera is the chorus made a more individual and important factor. The orchestral portion of the work is superb in its instrumental color and characterization.

There has been a great deal said about atmospheric works, but none exceeds this in the presentation and atmosphere of theatrical sense, of that great, indescribable, subtle background of intangible emotion which gives a drama vitality.

Max Smith in the Press:

Not since the days when the genius of Wagner opened up new artistic horizons has the musical public of New York experienced such a revelation as the Metropolitan Opera Company provided last night by riding back two-score years into the dim past and giving the first performances in America of Moussorgsky's "Boris Godunoff." Despite the age of this epoch making work, almost forgotten during a period of years even by the composer's own countrymen, the music sounded last night more strikingly novel, more essentially original, more vital and powerful, than any work of recent origin heard in this city, not excepting the stupendous scores of Strauss nor Debussy's flawless "Pelleas et Melisande."

Each of the scenes in which the chorus plays so important a part is absolutely without parallel in the literature of music. Conscious though the listener may be of the originality of music constructed on a schema of primitive scales that give it human feelings, as personal, as individual, as poignant as if they were concentrated into a single character, but far more overpowering in their effect, breaks triumphantly through the shell of conventionality.

Moussorgsky's chorus is not a body of singers to whom the composer has allotted certain pages of the score. It is a high looming figure of tragic import; voicing in accents hitherto unuttered - in pious chants, in wails of despair, in cries of joy, in the blood-curdling clamor of anarchy - the passions of a whole nation.

Henry E. Krehbiel in the Tribune:

From whatever point of view it may be looked at the opera "Boris Godunoff" is an extraordinary work. It is a work crude and fragmentary in structure, but it is tremendously puissant in its preachment of nationalism; and it is strong there, not so much because of its story or of the splendid barbarism of its external integument as because of its nationalism, which is proclaimed in the use of Russian folksong. The hero of the opera is in dramatic structure (or at least in emotional content) a Macbeth or Richard III; his utterances are frequently poignant and heart gripping in the extreme; his dramatic portrayal by Mr. Didur last night was so thrilling as to call up memories of some of the "great" English tragedians of the past.



Production photos of Boris Godunov by White Studios.



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