Boris Godunov

It's hard to name another opera with so many editions. M. Mussorgsky left two versions (1869 and 1872). N.Rimsky-Korsakov wrote two more (in 1896 and in 1908). In 1959, D. Shostakovich proposed his version and orchestration. In the middle of the 20th century, D.Gutmann and K.Rathaus made two more orchestrations for the New York Metropolitan Opera. In addition, there was the instrumentation of the scene near  St. Basil’s Cathedral by M. Ippolitov-Ivanov. All these versions were just attempts to combine all the best that was available in two versions of the composer himself.

In 1825, 26-years-old Alexander Pushkin completed, and in 1831 published the tragedy "Boris Godunov," which covers seven years of Boris Fyodorovich Godunov reign.

In 1869, the 30-years-old Modest Mussorgsky completed the opera "Boris Godunov" on the tragedy by Pushkin and "The History of the Russian State" by Nikolai Karamzin.

Mussorgsky, as a deeply Russian man, was greatly impressed by the image of the tsar, tormented by pangs of his conscience. He wrote most of the  libretto text not only reading into Pushkin's drama, but also into Karamzin's "The History of the Russian State."

There were 44 years between the tragedy and the opera. Different epochs caused different problems. Pushkin's "Godunov" was created in the time of Alexander I, who came to the throne as a result of Paul I death, and involvement of Alexander in the murder was for Pushkin an acute question not of history, but of modernity. He was worried about the problem of man and power. Soon it was sharply raised in his poem "The Bronze Horseman." But by the time Mussorgsky began writing his opera, the era of Nicholas I had already passed, Alexander II reigned for 14 years. The composer witnessed the serf reform of 1861 and its consequences. The theme of the people deceived in their aspirations became one of the main problems in his opera.

The people who first appeared on the opera stage as the main character traditionally considered to be loyal to the "Father tsar". Tsar Boris turned into  the "tsar-Herod" for whom one can not even pray: "The Virgin does not Orders. " People saw the cause of all disasters in him.

The theatre committee, under the pretext of not having a winning female role, did not take the opera. The composer prepared a second version, in which a Polish act appeared with the expanded role of Marina Mniszek. But there was also a powerful scene near Kromy. The opera ended not with the death of Boris, but with a scene of popular revolt, the celebration of the Pretender, and the lamentation of yurodiviy about poor Russia.

January 27, 1874, despite all sorts of obstacles, the premiere took place at the Mariinsky Theater. The audience met the opera enthusiastically, but the criticism was sharply negative. The opera was repeated then with great reductions and rather rare. In 1881 Mussorgsky died at the age of 42 years. The following year Boris Godunov was removed from the repertoire of Russian theatres.

Fourteen years later, N.Rimsky-Korsakov revised the score of Mussorgsky, largely following the tastes of that time. This version of  the opera became known throughout the world thanks to the Parisian Diaghilev seasons of 1908, and with Chaliapin in the title role.

The Astrakhan State Opera and Ballet Theatre has used the author's score  in its production.


The Astrakhan Kremlin is one of the most beautiful Kremlin in Russia, a unique architectural complex, an outstanding monument of Russian military engineering. Peter the Great himself was delighted with the Assumption Cathedral of the Kremlin in his time. The place of execution in Astrakhan is the second remained in Russia after Moscow and the only one that makes up the general ensemble with the cathedral.

But not only for these reasons the Astrakhan State Opera and Ballet Theatre has decided to stage  the opera Boris Godunov  in the most complicated format of the play in the open air, on the Cathedral Square of the Kremlin.

The names of Boris Godunov and Marina Mnishek are directly related to the Astrakhan Kremlin.

In 1584, after the death of Ivan the Terrible and immediately after the wedding of the tsar Theodore Ivanovich, Boris Godunov received the title of the viceroy of the Kazan and Astrakhan kingdoms. He began the construction of cities on the outskirts of the Moscow state. The original Astrakhan Kremlin, set in 1558, was wooden and could not serve as a serious defense. Becoming the viceroy of the Astrakhan kingdom, Godunov supervised the construction of the stone Kremlin, which was built , according to his order, by Mikhail Velyaminov and Day Gubasty, and by 1589 the city was completely enclosed by a stone wall with towers: "... The city is numerously beautiful, and around it its marble belt , green and red”.

Much in the history of the Astrakhan Kremlin is associated with Marina Mnishek, the Russian tsaritsa, the wife of False Dmitry I, and then False Dmitry II.

Exactly 400 years ago, Moscow was set free from the Poles by the people's militia led by Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky. False Dmitry II, nicknamed "Tushinsky thief", was killed, Marina Mnishek with her son, "little thief", and ataman Zarutsky took shelter in Astrakhan.

In 1605, there was serious unrest  in Astrakhan after the appearance of the Pretender, "Tsarevich Dimitry Ivanovich", which splitted Russia. The Astrakhan voevoda Mikhail Saburov and Archbishop Theodosius sharply denounced the liar Grishka Otrepyev and began to lead the Astrakhans to swear allegiance to the Tsar Feodor, the son of Boris. That is why Astrakhan was the last in Russia to swear allegiance to False Dmitry. Saburov and Theodosius were removed from power, arrested and sent to Moscow.

The Astrakhan kingdom was torn apart by the troubles (that went down in history as "Astrakhan") all the subsequent years before the expulsion of the Poles from Russia. Local self-appointed princes appeared here. There were twelve of them in three years! It was astonishing that in Astrakhan the pretenders were supported mainly not  by pleb, but by the rulers headed  by the voevoda of Prince Ivan Khvorostinin.

The monks of the Trinity Monastery were the active participants in the Troubles. They  supported False Dmitry I. The Hegumen  Jonah, who replaced the overthrown Archbishop Theodosius, personally traveled to Moscow to bow to the self-styled tsar.  Not surprising that Mniszek and Zarutsky found shelter in the Trinity Monastery of Astrakhan.

Initially, Zarutsky, whom Prince Khvorostinin received in his own house, was quiet, but soon he and his Cossacks began to commit outrages. The blood of Astrakhans was poured out on torture and executions; Khvorostinin himself was killed. This quickly sobered the Astrakhan people, the city was again unrested. Marina Mnishek even banned the early blessing for matins  fearing the growing of the townspeople indignation. She remembered too well the alarm on May 17, 1606 when the Moscow uprising against the Polish invaders began and False Dmitry I was lynched.

The Astrakhans threatened the massacre of Zarutsky and the "heretic-lutheran," and they were forced to flee. The escape became possible through the Nikolsky  Church Gates, which went directly to the pier, where the fugitives plunged into the boats at the night of May 12, 1614. However, they were soon seized. On June 25 they were brought to Astrakhan, and from here, via Kazan, sent to Moscow. 230 shooters guarded Zarutsky, 600 shooters guarded Marina and her son. There was a secret order to kill the prisoners  at attempt to release them.

In Moscow, Zarutsky was put on a pike, Marina’s son was hanged. She herself died in prison: according to Moscow reports, she died from grief, to Polish reports, she was strangled or drowned.

So the story of the first crowned Russian tsaritsa Marina Mnishek ended  terribly and ingloriously.

The most valuable relic is stored in the Astrakhan State Museum: the shroud, embroidered by the mother of Ivan the Terrible, Elena Glinskaya. It was in the Archangel Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin and was taken by Marina among other relics of Mnishek, and after her flight It was kept in the Astrakhan Cathedral for many years until It was transferred to the museum.

The Trinity Cathedral, which was a part of the Trinity Monastery, remained on the territory of the Astrakhan Kremlin. Mnishek was hiding in it. There are 13 operating Kremlin in Russia. The Astrakhan Kremlin is one of the few that has preserved its historical authenticity so it’s walles remember Mnishek.

The dilapidated church of St. Nicholas was rebuilt at the beginning of the XVIII century, but it was located exactly in the same place, where Marina ran from.

The white Prechistenskaya bell tower stands near  the Assumption Cathedral, which the Astrakhans are proud of. A passage tower was in its place  in the times of Mniszek. A gate church was built on the tower in honor of the God  Mother Kazan icon  soon after the expulsion of Mniszek and Zarutsky from Astrakhan and in memory of this event. Since that time the main gates of the Kremlin has been called Prechistenskaya: according to one of the names of the Virgin - the Most-Pure Virgin.

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