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Mussorgsky Boris Godunov
(original 1869 version)

Matti Salminen, Brian Asawa, Stefania Toczyska, Albert Shagidullin, Philip Langridge, Eric Halvarson & Anatoli Kotcherga

Orquestra Simfònica i cor del Gran Teatre del Liceu, Sebastian Weigle

Stage Director: Willy Decker
Recorded - Gran Theatre del Liceu, Barcelona 2004



A very successful production for home viewing, this version prior to Rimsky-Korsakov's re-orchestration. Whether it is the David Lloyd-Jones score (OUP, 1976) or another's is regrettably not clarified in the notes, but certainly it eschews Rimsky's colourful elaborations and sounds sombre and grand under the baton of Weigle.

Willy Decker's pared down staging internalises the conflicts, with a huge symbolic chair to represent the power of the throne, and an image of the murdered tsarevich which causes Boris's disintegration and death. Simple costumes and stark effective lighting concentrate attention upon the impossibility of suppressing unxepiated guilt and preventing the dissolution of an ill founded monarchy.

The images are haunting, with the crowd prominent, and the near naked Simpleton uttering what must not be said. Pimen, the hisorian, is embodied with Eric Halfvarson's superb, sonorous bass, and the false Prince Shuisky is England's marvellous Philip Langridge, not often seen as a "baddie".

The focus and centre of the whole is the legendary Matti Salminen, in whose eyes we perceive the hollowness of absolute power, the presentation sufficiently neutral to encourage contemplation of other declines and falls.

Another notable addition to the collection of filmed opera performances from Barcelona and, in our opinion, one of the best.

Peter Grahame Woolf July 2006