Last Saturday morning, the Stadium 9 Cineplex was the place to be. Despite drizzling rain, youngsters lined up for popcorn, cider and a kiddie movie. Grownups lined up for popcorn and Boris Godunov.
A high-definition simulcast of the Metropolitan Operas production of Modest Mussorgskys masterpiece began at 10 a.m. Met HD broadcasts have been going on for several years. Now Durango has joined a nationwide trend. About three dozen people showed up Saturday for a spectacular production of the Russian classic.
This was my first experience of the live Met broadcasts on the big screen. Id heard about the skillful camera work, close-ups you wouldnt believe and wide shots that give you a full impression of the Mets enormous stage. Well, its all true. Excellent sound production with spare English subtitles made the opera accessible and enjoyable.
With a cast of more than 200, Mussorgskys opera tells a tale of a tormented ruler with his country in political turmoil. The plot centers on Boris, a thoughtful, reluctant Tsar. An angry pretender, Grigory, surfaces and plots an overthrow. In addition, theres a storyteller, a fool, a scheming princess, a duplicitous priest and, for comic relief, two drunken monks and a savvy innkeeper. In short, this is a historical fable about the pitfalls of power and a gullible populace prone to any and every rumor. Sounds like the run-up to our election: angry voters and nasty sloganeering, not to mention the general tea-bagging of America.
Director Stephen Wadsworth took advantage of Mussorgskys short overture to set a little pantomime. A ragged beggar, the Holy Fool, pleads with a silent Boris to save the country. This little vignette quickly merged into a full prologue with a large crowd of Russian peasants urgently seeking relief from lack of jobs, lack of food general despair. State police and government officials quell the crowd, and finally the reluctant Boris appears.
With his big voice and towering stature, German bass René Pape dominated the stage. Pape ably headed an otherwise all-Russian cast. Ekaterina Semenchuk created a devilish Princess Marina with icy intensity. Her conspiratorial duet with Grigory, tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko, smoked out a plot to overthrow Godunov and rule Russia. And in the orchestra pit, Russian conductor Valery Gergiev shaped Mussorgskys gorgeous music with the passion for which he is famous.
I was impressed with the simple grandeur of the sets and astonished at the scene transitions. Smooth and swift, the opening monastery scene morphed into a full coronation with minimal effort. With sparse backdrops and almost no stage furniture, the production evoked an elegant gray-and-white Polish court, the exterior of St. Basil Cathedral and a Russian forest all with great style and the fluidity of modern filmmaking.
If you love opera, dont miss any of the upcoming Met HD performances at Stadium 9.
The next features Don Pasquale, by Donizetti, on Nov. 13. Its a comic opera about an elderly bachelor with an eye for the ladies. Hes duped into a fake marriage with humorous consequences. If you know little about opera, wouldnt Don Pasquale be a good place to start learning about this grandest of all the arts?
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.