Mussorgsky - Boris Godunov
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It was sourced from a PAL video recording originally made by the BBC, but for some reason (presumably US/Japanese sales) the DVD authors decided to convert it into the NTSC system, which plays havoc with the picture definition. Worse, the low-bitrate transfer has added digital artefacts galore, which get particularly blocky every time the camera pans or zooms.
Thankfully, the sound quality (either PCM stereo or DTS 5.1) is vastly superior, and the set as a whole is clearly a must for Mussorgsky fans and Tarkovsky completists - bad though the picture is, it never completely obliterates the virtues of the original. But it's a real pity that corporate greed has made this such a badly compromised product, as I can't see a separate PAL DVD appearing any time soon.
Mussorgsky's extraordinarily original music makes us live and feel every nuance of his drama. All roles are beautifully sung and powerfully acted. Lloyd is a brilliant Boris. I have never seen another Varlaam portray his role with such humor. Cardinal Rangoni hovers like a spider over Marina as he twists her to his will. Gergiev is a superb conductor of Mussorgsky's original orchestrations.
The staging is also extraordinary: Tarkovsky brilliantly uses the same basic set depict a myriad of scenes, enabling each to flow into the next seamlessly. Actors portray sculptures in the Polish garden scene, changing position to mark shifts of perspective. Nevertheless, some of his devices detract from the inner strength of the drama: Boris recoils in terror from the call for alms of poor in the coronation scene; the ghost of Dmitri (the rightful Tsar whom Boris had had murdered)hovers endlessly through the play. Worst of all: Tarkovsky has everyone fall down dead at the end of the Kromny scene, instead of marching out in false triumph behind the false Dmitri.
With this production, Boris stands up as one of the world's greatest operatic masterpieces along anything out of Wagner's or Verdi's top drawer.
By the way, the production has a very satisfying psychological quality to it. It is not a bunch of actors that are stiff as a board singing on a stage that is loaded with ornate sets. The production is very involving and really quite modern. The colors are breathtaking.
The DVD is fully entertaining and bears frequent reviewing. If I could, I would give it 10 stars. I cannot imagine a better staged Boris.
Post Script: I am not changing my impression of this fabulous performance. It is still probably the best performed opera I have on DVD, but now I have a flat screen LCD television. The Sony Bravia hilites the rather low level resolution of this production. If you have a traditional (not digital or hi-definition) television. the resolution will still look quite good. On and LCD or plasma television, the current version of the DVD may disappoint.
Valery Gergiev conducts the Kirov Orchestra in a live 1990 performance from St. Petersburg to a packed, enthused audience. English bass Robert Lloyd portrays Russia's tormented ruler with all the commitment I can imagine. The other singers, all Russians are not familiar to me, but they sing with commitment and energy. I'm not sure I like Varlaam's aria as well as Feodor Chaliapin sang it-available in a Naxos overview recording made in the late 1920s- but this "Boris.." is very well sung and acted.
Some viewers may not agree with my praise for this production, but I thought this was a terrific performance, and am overwhelmed by Mussorgsky's music, and the opera plot. I don't watch this very often: it is not for the faint of heart, and I must be in a certain, very strong mood to enjoy it. Recommended if you like (or can handle) the story line and Mussorgsky's music.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Mussorgsky is a very interesting Russian composer. This is his most famous opera. The set is tremendous and the actors in the opera are very good. Read morePublished 5 months ago by James D. Weinberg
EXPLENDID, BUT I DON"T KNOW WHY IT IS NOT POSIBOL TO HAVE DE OPERA IN OTHER LANGUAGES,EXAMPLE TITLE EN SPANISH OR ENGLIS,THANKSPublished 19 months ago by Rogelio Garcia de Dios Ferreiro
Very strange and poor staging. I have a better older production and don't understand the high praise for this one. Any one expecting sometrhign exceptional might be dissapointed. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Marilyn Kosmowski
Truly a masterpece of the "smuta"- time of troubles an\d the rise of the Romanovs.He also wrote "Pictures at an exhibition and the Great gate of Kiev and "Night on... Read morePublished on March 17, 2014 by rh
This Kirov Opera staging is somewhat quirky, vacillating between neo-traditionalism and sometime arcane modern symbolism, but overall it hangs together. Read morePublished on November 27, 2013 by James A. Altena
I had been searching for a production of Boris Godunov on DVD that contained most of the original music by Mussorgsky with decent "singing actors," and excellent orchestra and no... Read morePublished on November 5, 2013 by H. Curl
This production was filmed in St Petersburg, but Tarkovsky's staging was originally put on at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, which is where I saw Boris Godunov for the one... Read morePublished on November 21, 2010 by DAVID BRYSON
Before my partner and I went to the Metropolitan Opera's Boris Godunov in the movie theaters, we thought we should watch and hear the opera in advance. Read morePublished on November 11, 2010 by Michael J. Mcpherson
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