The Mary D. Fisher Theatre is honored to continue to be the home for the Met Live Opera programs for the 2021-2022 season, presented by the Sedona International Film Festival. The season will officially kick off with Modest Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov” on Saturday, Oct. 9. There will be one show at 10 a.m. — a live simulcast as it is happening at the Met!
Plan to come early as Russell Fox will lead a pre-opera talk one hour before the production.
Bass René Pape reprises his tremendous portrayal of the tortured tsar caught between grasping ambition and crippling paranoia. Conductor Sebastian Weigle leads Mussorgsky’s masterwork, a pillar of the Russian repertoire, in its original 1869 version. Stephen Wadsworth’s affecting production poignantly captures the hope and suffering of the Russian people, as well as the title ruler himself.
Russia, between 1598 and 1605.
Boris Godunov has retreated to the Novodievichy Monastery near Moscow. The Streltsy police force a crowd to beg Boris to become tsar of Russia. The boyar Shchelkalov announces that Boris still refuses the throne and laments Russia’s insoluble misery. A procession of pilgrims prays to God for help. The Streltsy warn the crowd to be at the Kremlin the next morning ready to cheer.
The following day, the bells of Moscow herald the coronation of Boris. The new tsar, overcome by fear and melancholy, implores God to look kindly on him. He invites the people to a feast. The people cheer.
In the Chudov Monastery, the monk Pimen is writing the last chapter of his history of Russia. The novice Grigory awakens from a nightmare and expresses regret that he hasn’t tasted glory in war and society. He questions Pimen about the dead Tsarevich Dimitry, rightful heir to Boris’s throne. Pimen recounts the events of Dimitry’s murder (the assassins implicated Boris before they died) and mentions that the tsarevich would have been Grigory’s age. Alone, Grigory decides to flee the cloister and condemns Boris: “You will not escape the judgment of man or God!”
Now on a mission to expose Boris and proclaim himself the Tsarevich Dimitry, Grigory is trying to cross into Lithuania to find support for his cause. He falls in with two vagrant monks, Varlaam and Missail, at an inn near the border, and uses them as cover. No sooner has he asked directions to the border from the innkeeper, who warns that the frontier is heavily patrolled, than a police officer enters with a warrant for Grigory’s arrest. The officer is illiterate, so Grigory reads the warrant, substituting a description of Varlaam for his own. But Varlaam can read. Grigory escapes, pursued by the Streltsy.
In Boris’s apartments, his daughter mourns the death of her fiance´. Boris comforts her tenderly, talks intimately with his son about inheriting the throne, then reflects to himself on his inconsolable sadness: All that he does for his people seems to go wrong, and he is blamed for everything after the murder of the tsarevich. Shuisky, a powerful boyar, brings news of a pretender to the Russian throne, supported by the Polish court and the Pope. When Boris learns that the pretender claims to be Dimitry, he is deeply shaken. Shuisky reassures him again that the real tsarevich was in fact killed and tells of seeing the boy’s body after his murder––over three days there was no sign of decay, only a mysterious radiance. Shuisky leaves and Boris gives way to his terror, imagining that he sees Dimitry’s ghost. Torn by guilt and regret, he prays for forgiveness.
Outside the Cathedral of St. Basil in Moscow, starving peasants debate whether Tsarevich Dimitry still lives, as news reaches them that his troops are near. A group of children torment a Holy Fool and steal his last kopek. When Boris and his retinue come from the cathedral to distribute alms, the Holy Fool asks Boris to kill the children the way he killed Dimitry. Shuisky orders the Holy Fool seized, but Boris instead asks his accuser to pray for him. The Holy Fool refuses to intercede for a murderer. When Boris’s retinue passes and the people disperse, the Holy Fool laments Russia’s dark future.
In the Duma, the council of boyars passes a death sentence on the pretender. Shuisky arrives with an account of Boris’s hallucinations of the murdered tsarevich. Boris suddenly storms in, disoriented and crying out to the dead child. When he regains his composure, Shuisky brings Pimen before the Duma. Pimen tells of a man who was cured of blindness while praying at Dimitry’s grave. Boris collapse. He sends the boyars away, calling for his son. Naming him heir to his throne, he bids a loving farewell to his children and dies.
The Met Live Opera’s “Boris Godunov” will be shown at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 9 at 10 a.m. (live simulcast). The pre-opera talks will take place one hour before the show. Tickets are $25 general admission, $22 for Film Festival members, and $15 for students. Season tickets for the entire 15th Anniversary season of the Met Live Operas are also available. Tickets are available in advance at the Sedona International Film Festival office or by calling 928-282-1177. Both the theatre and film festival office are located at 2030 W. Hwy. 89A, in West Sedona. For more information, visit: www.SedonaFilmFestival.org.