Saturday 5 July 2008

Matti Salminen as Boris Godunov on DVD

Boris Godunov. Teatro de Liceu, Barcelona 2004. Production: Willy Decker. Cast: Matti Salminen (Boris), Eric Halfvarson (Pimen), Anatoli Kotscherga (Varlaam), Pär Lindskog (False Dmitri), Philip Langridge (Shuisky). Conductor: Sebastian Weigle. More details here.

This DVD from the Barcelona Liceu presents the original 1869 version of Boris Godunov (information on the various different versions here) in Mussorgsky´s orchestration, meaning no Polish scenes and thus no Marina Mnishek.

Willy Decker´s revisionist staging is minimalistic and focuses on the psychological characterization. In the introduction, we see the murder of the "real" Dmitri, who later comes back to haunt Boris as the Simpleton in the Cathedral Scene. The symbols are tangible such as the power being symbolized by a giant golden chair. Boris is more an accomplice than a mastermind, the real culprit being Shuisky,as in Tcherniakov´s recent Berlin staging.

Matti Salminen is simply a riveting Boris, the best on DVD so far, making "I have attained the power" the centerpiece of this production. Philip Langridge is a deligthfully slick and malicious Shuisky and Pär Lindskog is fine as the "false" Dmitri. And a good decision to have Fyodor sung by a counter-tenor as well. Eric Halfvarson is a somewhat shaky Pimen (both vocally and dramatically) as opposed to Anatoli Kotschergas solid Varlaam.

The orchestra under Sebastian Weigle sounds just fine, though not approaching Valery Gergiev´s Mariinsky Band on the competing DVD.

Among the modern DVDs, the only alternative to this production is Tarkovsky´s staging from the Mariinsky Theater with Gergiev, Lloyd and Borodina in the revised 1872 version, including the Polish scenes. Though a fine production, I find it strangely glossy and personally prefer Willy Decker´s approach not to mention Matti Salminen´s Boris.

Pimen and Boris towards the end:

The bottom line (scale 1-5, 3=average):

Matti Salminen: 5
Philip Langridge: 5
Pär Lindskog: 4

Willy Decker´s production: 5
Sebastian Weigle: 4

Overall impression: 4-5

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