The Metropolitan Opera will premiere a new production of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov on October 11, starring René Pape as Boris and conducted by Valery Gergiev. Pape, who has performed the title role to great acclaim in his native Germany, will make his American role debut under the baton of Gergiev, widely recognized as the world’s leading conductor of Russian opera. Stephen Wadsworth, who won praise for his productions of Rodelinda and Iphigénie en Tauride in recent seasons, will direct the Met’s first new production of the opera since 1974.
The title role of Boris Godunov is a touchstone role for operatic basses, a tour de force for an artist who can command the powerful vocal and dramatic skills needed to portray the guilt-ridden tsar. René Pape has built a reputation as a consummate singing-actor in a variety of roles at the Met, including Wagner’s King Marke in Tristan und Isolde and Gurnemanz in Parsifal, Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Méphistophélès in Gounod’s Faust, and King Philip in Verdi’s Don Carlo, and his American debut in the role of Boris is highly anticipated. The Financial Times called Pape “the consummate Boris” after he debuted the role in Berlin, and The New Yorker’s Alex Ross wrote, “Pape’s voice remains one of the most remarkable in opera: it is anchored on low notes of rocklike solidity and blazes brilliantly as it goes above middle C. These are qualities that make for a great Boris.”
The new production will also feature a number of leading singers performing Boris Godunov for the first time at the Met. The cast includes Latvian tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko, who made a notable debut opposite Renée Fleming in the 2009 revival of Rusalka, as Grigory/The Pretender Dimitry; and Russian mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk, who has drawn praise for her Met performances in War and Peace, The Queen of Spades, and Eugene Onegin, as Princess Marina. Other notable Russian singers making their Met role debuts in this production are bass-baritone Evgeny Nikitin as Rangoni, bass Mikhail Petrenko as Pimen, and tenor Oleg Balashov as Shuisky. Bass Vladimir Ognovenko will reprise his portrayal of Varlaam, which he first performed with the Met in a 1997 run of performances conducted by Gergiev. Many of the Met cast members have performed Boris Godunov with Gergiev at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater, where he is artistic director and where the opera had its 1874 premiere.
The production’s creative team includes Academy Award-nominated costume designer Moidele Bickel, prominent European set designer Ferdinand Wögerbauer, and choreographer Apostolia Tsolaki, all of whom are making their Met debuts. Lighting design is by Duane Schuler, whose many credits at the Met include the recent new productions of The First Emperor, Thaïs, and La Rondine. Steve Rankin is the fight choreographer.
Boris Godunov, adapted from a play by Alexander Pushkin about the extraordinary reign of the 16th-century tsar, is widely regarded as Mussorgsky’s operatic masterpiece, and the role of Boris has been played at the Met by such legendary basses as Fyodor Chaliapin, Ezio Pinza, and George London. The Met’s new production is primarily based on the 1875 version of the opera but will incorporate some music from the composer’s original 1869 score, notably in Boris’s Act II monologue in the Kremlin, and the entire St. Basil scene which opens Act IV. The 1874 revision is the basis for the ending of Act III, scene 2 (the end of the “Polish” act). Mussorgsky’s original orchestrations will be used. The production is underwritten by Karen and Kevin Kennedy, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Solomon, and Mr. and Mrs. Wilmer J. Thomas, Jr.
Live Broadcasts Around the World
Boris Godunov will be experienced by millions of people around the world this season in movie theaters and on the radio and the internet, through distribution platforms the Met has established with various media partners.
The October 23 matinee of Boris Godunov will be transmitted to more than 1,500 movie theaters in more than 40 countries globally as part of The Met’s rapidly expanding Live in HD series.
The October 11 opening performance will be broadcast live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS channel 78 and XM channel 79, as will the performances on October 18 and March 12.
The opening performance on October 11 will also be available via internet streaming at the Met’s web site www.metopera.org. The March 12 matinee at 12:00 p.m. will be broadcast live over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.
For More Information, See the Met’s Web Site
For more information, including bios of the performers and production team as well as general information about the Met season, please see the Met’s Web site at http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/news/press/.