Glinka’s Zhizn’sa Tsarja may be Russia’s “national opera,” but Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov must be its most iconic and “Trove Thursday” presents it with Claudio Abbado leading an impressive team. 

Ruggero Raimondi is the doomed tsar with Lucia Valentini-Terrani, Samuel Ramey, Philip Langridge, John Shirley-Quirk, Sergei Koptchak, Kaludi Kaludov and the Chicago Symphony and Chorus.

The opera’s many variants and editions are far too complicated to untangle here but more recently performers have discarded previously popular reorchestrations, especially Rimsky-Korsakov’s, to return to the composer’s own preferences, one version of which is presented here.

A more recent trend is to omit the Polish act but personally I’m pleased that it’s included as I appreciate its lightening the opera’s tone a bit which can otherwise be awfully dark and heavy.

Although it might seem remarkable that the Chicago Symphony would marshall the enormous resources necessary for this performance of Boris, the orchestra has a storied history of high-profile, star-filled concert versions of operas.

One remembers the blistering Salome starring Birgit Nilsson conducted by Georg Solti

…and, of course, the notorious Luciano Pavarotti Otello. “Trove Thursday” also previously posted a fizzy Solti-CSO Falstaff with Katia Ricciarelli, Kathleen Battle, Christa Ludwig, Guillermo Sarabia and Wolfgang Brendel.

I hard the Falstaff when it was brought to Carnegie Hall where I also attended a marvelous CSO Tristan und Isolde in 2001 conducted by Daniel Barenboim with a riveting Waltraud Meier opposite a less-than-riveting Christian Franz.

The tradition has continued under current music director Riccardo Muti who has led Macbeth and another Falstaff and in June Aïda will arrive with Krassimira Stoyanova, Anita Rachvelishvili, Francesco Meli, Kiril Manolov, Ildar Abdrazakov and Eric Owens (at the King!).

More Mussorgsky to come on “Trove Thursday” in 2019!

Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov
Orchestra Hall, Chicago
1 November 1984

Marina — Lucia Valentini-Terrani
Fyodor — Zehava Gal
Xenia — Cyndia Sieden
Hostess of the Inn & Xenia’s Nurse — Jennifer Jones
Boris Godunov — Ruggero Raimondi
Dmitri — Kaludi Kaludov
Prince Shuisky — Phillip Langridge
Pimen – Samuel Ramey
Rangoni — John Shirley-Quirk
Varlaam — Sergei Koptchak
Shchelkalov — Hartmut Welker
Missail & the Simpleton — Kurt Hansson
Boyar — Donald Kaasch

Chicago Symphony Orchestra & Chorus

Conductor — Claudio Abbado

Boris can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

Nearly 200 other podcast tracks also remain available from iTunes for free, or via any RSS reader.