Vladivostok, Primorsky Stage, Great Hall

Boris Godunov

Opera in seven scenes

Performed in Russian (the performance will have synchronised Russian and English supertitles)



Valery Gergiev

Boris Godunov: Ildar Abdrazakov
Pimen: Stanislav Trofimov
The Pretender: Sergei Semishkur
Shuisky: Yevgeny Akimov
Varlaam: Andrei Serov


Music by Modest Musorgsky
Libretto by the composer after the tragedy of the same name by Alexander Pushkin and Nikolai Karamzin´s tragedy The History of the Russian State

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Musical Preparation: Irina Soboleva
The stage version is based on the play by Andrei Tarkovsky
Adaptation Director for the Primorsky Stage: Sergei Bogoslavsky
Lighting Adaptation for the Primorsky Stage: Natalya Tyurina
Video content: Pyotr Okunev
Principal Chorus Masters: Konstantin Rylov (Mariinsky Theatre), Larisa Shveikovskaya


Novodevichy Monastery.
1598. Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich has died without an heir. Boris Godunov had been the de facto ruler under Fyodor’s reign, having shown exceptional wisdom in the cause of the Russian State. He tried to claim the throne but the boyars – of more noble birth than Godunov – resisted him, spreading ill tales about him and that it was he who ordered the death of Tsarevich Dmitry in Uglich, the legal heir to the throne and the younger son of Ivan the Terrible.
In order to achieve his desired aims, Boris ostensibly removes himself and his family to the Novodevichy Monastery; Godunov’s adherents have assembled the people to “ask Boris to be Tsar”. The people reluctantly obey, expressing apathy and indifference to what is happening. Shchelkalov, the scribe of the Boyars’ Council, declares that Boris is adamant in his resolution. However, the Patriarch and the boyars close to Godunov nonetheless “beg” him to ascend the throne.
A bailiff announces the boyars’ decree: “Be in the Kremlin on the morrow and await orders.”

A square in the Kremlin.
Godunov is crowned Tsar. Boris has achieved everything he wanted but… “My heart laments, some kind of unbidden fear has filled my heart with a premonition of evil.” Tsar Boris yields before the “exultant people”. Can he be won over?

Pimen’s cell in the Chudov Monastery.
“One more tale and my manuscript is complete…” The young monk Grigory awakes from a troubled dream: for the third time he has seen himself ascending a steep staircase in his sleep, looking over Moscow and falling downwards: “I became both ashamed and frightened…”
Grigory is troubled that he does nothing at the monastery. He envies Pimen for the rich tapestry of events that occurred in his younger days. He is particularly interested in the death of the young Tsarevich in Uglich. “He was the same age as you and reigned,” Pimen answers. Pimen’s words about the murder of the Tsarevich on the orders of Boris Godunov open a fiendish plan to Grigory.

An inn at the Lithuanian border.
The wandering Varlaam and Misail are joined by Grigory, who has fled the monastery. The innkeeper tells him how to get into Lithuania without passing the guards.
Guards appear unexpectedly in the hope of profiting from the monks’ “weaknesses”: who are they and where are they from? Wishing to alarm them, the guards produce a decree for the capture of the “heretic Grishka Otrepiev”. In order to remain incognito Grigory offers to read the decree and names Varlaam’s features instead of his own. The indignant Varlaam reads the decree for himself. Grigory flees.

A terem in the Moscow Kremlin.
Tsarevna Xenia mourns her dead husband, while Tsarevich Fyodor examines the map of Russia.
With his family Boris Godunov is good and kind. But he cannot dismiss his gloomy thoughts: “I have supreme power. I have reigned in peace for six years. But my soul knows no rest…”
Informed by Prince Shuisky of the Pretender in Lithuania calling himself Dmitry, Godunov loses his self-control. He insists that Shuisky confirm the death of the young Dmitry in Uglich. The Prince’s detailed story is agony for Boris. 

The square in front of St Basil’s in Moscow.
Prior to a service in the cathedral, where Grishka Otrepiev is being denounced and eternal prayers are being said for the Tsarevich Dmitry, the people are discussing the rumour that the Tsarevich was saved and his troops are close to Moscow.
The imperial procession begins. The people pray and demand “Bread! Bread! Bread for the hungry!”
The Simpleton interrupts the Tsar’s procession. Another wound to Godunov’s soul: “We must not pray for a tyrant Tsar!”

Night. The Chamber of Facets in the Kremlin.
An emergency meeting of the Boyars’ Council: the Pretender’s army is close to Moscow.
The boyars are worried at Shuisky’s account of the Tsar’s illness. Boris is overcome with superstition, suspicion and fear.
Shuisky tells the tortured and suffering Boris to listen to Pimen’s tale of how a blind monk was cured over the grave of St Dmitry.
Boris has lost his self-control. Sensing the end is nigh he calls his son and orders him to “Remain pure, Fyodor, purity is your strength and power, the fortress of your reason and your salvation…”
Tsar Boris dies.


To enjoy Boris Godunov live is a dream of any opera lover. Brilliantly translated into music by Modest Musorgsky, the pangs of conscience and emotional throwing of the sinful tsar, who fancies he sees “blooded boys”, excite the imagination much tougher than a Hollywood thriller. Along with Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Boris Godunov has become a Russian opera performed most often.

There exist about ten different versions of the score. The Primorsky Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre will present the first opera version, which was written in 1869 and which entirely reflects the composer’s initial conception. The love story with Marina Mniszech, the Polish act with dances and the scene of popular revolt near Kromy are missing. In this version, the focus is on Boris Godunov; the opera begins with the decision of his coronation and ends with his death.  

Such performance requires an unordinary singer who can get the tsar’s profound image across to the public. The audience at the Mariinsky Festival enjoys a rare privilege to hear the greatest contemporary Russian bass, Ildar Abdrazakov in the part of Boris Godunov. In 2018 Ildar Abdrazakov debuted in that role at the Opéra Bastille where the new production had been staged specially for him. In December 2022 Ildar Abdrazakov as Boris Godunov will open the next season at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Italian opera lovers’ Mecca.

At the both opera performances at the Festival, the orchestra will be under the baton of maestro Valery Gergiev who is a passionate advocate and one of the best interpreters of Musorgsky’s music. With Valery Gergiev conducting and featuring Ildar Abdrazakov who is the world’s number one performer of the role of Boris Godunov, the performances are expected to give the audience a true operatic miracle.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes
The performance has no interval

Age category 12+

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