Modest Mussorgsky


contemporary opera 16

In Brief

Opera in four acts, in Russian, with Hungarian, English, and Russian subtitles

Performance length: , with 1 intermission.

One of the most remarkable productions of the OPERA's 2023/24 Slavic Season is Boris Godunov by Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky. This work of Russian opera, based on Alexander Pushkin's drama of the same title, returns to the Opera House after more than twenty years, and in the light of the recent years' aspirations and the traditions, in its original version. Therefore, it is not in the arrangement and orchestration by Rimsky-Korsakov that many are familiar with and that is most often performed, but in the original Mussorgsky version, which has a much more suspenseful, condensed plot than the other one. Thus, the play focuses even more on the psychological state of the characters: Mussorgsky creates a refined musical portrait of his characters. András Almási-Tóth's production and interpretation mixes historical time with the present, turning the romantic-historical work into a contemporary psychological thriller with elements of horror, where events take place on several timelines simultaneously.


1) Boris is crowned tsar. The people have been trained how to say the correct things.

2) Six years have passed, Pimen is writing a chronicle at the monastery. The young Grigory’s curiosity is piqued by the story of the mysterious death of the child Dmitry, the lawful heir to the throne. Boris is rumoured to have had a hand in it. Grigory concocts a wicked plan.

3) At the Lithuanian border, renounced monks are having a blast in a run-down inn. Grigory is also among them and wants to flee across the border. It is him that some officers are after, but Grigory tries to divert suspicion away from himself, then flees.

4) The tsar’s home. Kseniya, Boris’s daughter mourns her lost fiancé and her whole life. Feodor, his brother plays sovereign. Boris, their father appears in turmoil, he cannot find happiness, the accusation of the child's murder is eating him alive. Shuysky, the leader of the boyars manipulates his lord: he comes with news of the pretender aiming to overthrow Boris… It is Grigory, the runaway monk, who managed to flee to Lithuania and started to plot against Boris by pretending to be Dmitry, the murdered child. On hearing this, Boris feels poorly and has a seizure.

5) The crowd is in front of the cathedral, waiting. There is news of the heir Dmitry who has “arisen”, and at the same time he is being excommunicated in the church. The Fool appears and also accuses Boris of the murder. He mourns for Russia before the tsar.

6) The boyar council hears Shuysky bringing grave news of the tsar. Boris himself appears with a confused mind. He feels the end is nigh. He says farewell to his son and is taken by darkness.


"This rendition of Boris Godunov is transformed into a contemporary psychological thriller infused with elements of horror, skillfully juxtaposing historical contexts with the present day. The result is a multifaceted narrative that unfolds across multiple timelines, offering a fresh and compelling perspective on this iconic Russian opera."

Nadejda Komendantova, European News Agency