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Centerfold image from a souvenir program for Boris Godunov. Bolshoi Opera Company U.S. tour, 1975.

Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov

Modest Mussorgsky (1839–1881) took great pains to see his Boris Godunov reach the stage. An operatic retelling of events surrounding Tsar Boris (reigned ca. 1598–1605), it was based on a play written by Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837) in 1825. Mussorgsky began to set the play in 1868 as a "dialogue opera," closely following Pushkin’s text. The first version of the opera (1869) was rejected by the Imperial Theatre, primarily because it lacked a substantial female role. The extensive revision (1872), which varied from Pushkin’s text at many points, premiered at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre in 1874 and remained in their repertoire until 1882.
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