An excellent if flawed film version of a Russian operatic masterwork
Boris Godunov for me is the greatest of Russian operas and one of the finest operas there is too. This film version is excellent but it is not perfect at the same time. This is an abridged version of the opera, understandably as the opera is very long, which will make some despair. I didn't think all the cuts were bad, but a couple were so badly chopped that some scenes lost their impact. Act 3 is badly truncated to the extent that you are confused as to what is going on. I also didn't care for Fyodor's voice, to hear a high-pitched mezzo voice for a young boy really jarred for me. However, it is beautifully shot and the costumes and locations are splendid, with imaginative lighting, intoxicating shots of the Kremlin arches and a very realistic-looking burning city. As are the musical values, there is a lot of authentic Slavic flavour in the orchestral playing and conducting that in recent memory has only been replicated in my mind by Valery Gergiev. The chorus also sing powerfully.
The singing and acting of the principals is magnificent. Aleksandr Pirogov is one of the finest Boris Godunovs alongside Chaliapin, Christoff and Talvela. He does at times have a wobble to his voice, but there is also a dark sonority and command to it as well. One cannot deny either that this is a powerful reading of the tormented tsar, especially gripping in the justifiably famous Monologue. Part of you does wish that the Simpleton had more of a prominent role, he only has two scenes, but it is still important to the story. Ivan Kozlovsky sings and acts with eeriness, passion and poignancy. Maxim Mikhailov is a Pimen of great authority with a nobility to his sound, while Nikandr Khanaev's Shiusky is sly and malevolent. Aleksej Krivchenya is appropriately cunning as Varlaam, while Georgi Nelepp is an appealing Grigori and Larisa Avdeyeva likewise as Marina. Overall, flawed but still an excellent Boris Godunov. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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