The Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov will be Boris Godunov for the opening of Milan's opera season on 7 December 2022.
It will be Abdrazakov's 89th appearance on La Scala's stage and his seventh time singing in the opera to open the season, always on 7 December, the feast day of Saint Ambroise, the city's patron saint.
The Ukrainian Consulate had asked for the opera – the work of the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky – to be replaced, but La Scala has kept the title that had already been programmed several years ago. “I thank La Scala for not cancelling this Russian opera from the season, as is happening in other theatres,” said Abdrazakov. The director, Kasper Holten, added, “In times like these we need more art, not less.”
In an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Abdrazakov said:
People have to put all their heart into giving something more to people all over the world. I remember the famous passage in which Dostoevsky says that beauty will save the world. Here, I believe that art can save the world.
Churchill said: there is money for soldiers, money for machinery, but why only 0.5% for culture? What are we fighting for then?
[There are various versions of this quote but, sadly, it seems that Churchill did not say it, Ed.]
The 46-year-old singer first came to La Scala in 2001 after winning the Maria Callas prize in Parma, which was transmitted on Italian television.
My left knee was shaking, I remember, when I made my debut in Bellini's La Sonnambula conducted by Maurizio Benini.
Since then he's sung at La Scala with many conductors, including several operas with two of the theatre's musical directors, from Moïse et Pharaon with Riccardo Muti (7 December 2003) to Macbeth with Riccardo Chailly (7 December 2021).
The Italian conductors don't let you get away with anything – they are perfectionists. They all have helped me to create important characters and refine the musicality of each role. When I go on stage I try to enter the role of my character. I always play important roles, from Philip II in Don Carlos to Banco in Macbeth; I have also played Don Giovanni and Leporello, but of the two I prefer the former.
In Boris, first come the words and then the music, whereas in Verdi, for example, Attila [with Chailly in 2018] first the melody and then the libretto. In each of these villains there is a soul that questions them, both in Livermore's Attila and Holten's Boris. In Boris I will be singing with a child next to me, the ghost of the tsarevich, which will allow for interesting reactions on stage. And also, I'm singing in my own language, so today I am the happiest singer in the world.
Mussorgsky prepared his own libretto from Pushkin's play of the same name. The version of Boris Godunov that will be performed at La Scala is the first completed score from 1869 which was not accepted by the Imperial Theatres because of its lack of an important female role. The revised version of 1872 was the first to be staged and it received its first performance in 1874 in Saint Petersburg.
I was the one who brought the score to Chailly when we were performing Attila as I knew that he had been Abbado's assistant in 1979.
Boris Godunov was given its first Italian performance at La Scala in 1909, and Claudio Abbado conducted a memorable production directed by Yuri Lyubimov which opened the season on 7 December 1979. Abbado's assistant Riccardo Chailly, for his ninth season inauguration at La Scala, will conduct the opera for the first time.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.
December 7 2023? Are you sure? :)))))
Thank you! We’re always ahead.
More art, not less. But if Godunov had been substituted with a Verdi opera it would still have been art. Just a bit more of a dent in Putin’s pride.
Only someone who does not understand what ART is could say such a stupid thing. So Mussorgsky is now also a part of “Putin’s pride”? Ok, so present here at least one ukrainian composer who could be compared with Mussorgski! You cannot? Then please stop writing till you find one!
I’m afraid your comment doesn’t do you any favors.
The poster was suggesting an opera by Verdi, NOT by an Ukrainian composer. Verdi was Italian, very much so, in everything from birth to musical style, as any true opera lover knows; he wasn’t Ukrainian, nor Russian, so programming him would have been a neutral solution. The poster wasn’t belittling Mussorgsky, indeed he indirectly called his output “art”, as he did with Verdi, though in the latter case more directly. As to comparing composers, this is a futile exercise fraught with subjectivity. If you feel that Verdi is less of a composer than Mussorgsky, whatever made-up criteria you use for this type of ranking, suit yourself, but don’t expect any sensible person to embark on a pure emotional argument Verdi vs Mussorgsky, nor should you expect sensible people to post lists of composers, rank them, and come, what surprise!, with their personal favorite on the top.
And, you know, some people can rise above local “patriotism” colored by politics in their appreciation of art. Can you? If I am allowed to judge from the general tone of your comment, and your negligent, possibly willfully mistaken reading of David’s comment, I have my doubts. I was of two minds regarding the validity of David’s proposition – as an opera dealing with crime and abuse of (Russian) political power, Boris isn’t a bad choice, though I find it questionable to program an opera in a language so different from Italian, a language practically unknown in Italy, for the opening of the season at La Scala, in the country where the art form originated, and who has contributed the majority of the international repertoire, plenty of Italian operas to chose from. But after reading your reply I’m afraid David is right, Putin and his followers need a reality check, there are many operas in repertoire for opera lovers to enjoy, and Russian operas are just a tiny part of the international repertoire. Lion’s share of it is the Italian repertoire, followed by German repertoire (if you count Handel and Mozart to it), followed by French rep, followed by English-speaking and Russian rep.
Yes, it does. You still have no Ukrainian composer to mention.
Are you Anna’s spare account or a different poster? Whoever you might be, it seems that you haven’t understood my previous comment. Let’s try again. I wrote that SENSIBLE people aren’t interested in compiling lists of composers, and don’t rank them. Nobody here is beating the bush about Ukrainian composers but yourself, and pretty much out of the blue. Graham’s post isn’t about Ukrainian composers. David mentioned Verdi. I wrote about the composition of the international repertoire. If you are hoping to provoke one of us, wrong address here. SENSIBLE people are interested in enjoying music, period, not in nationalistic pissing contests.
For your edification, because you seem to need edification, the international repertoire is vast. The MOST performed operas/composers are, in the great leveler of chronological order, Mozart (5), Meyerbeer (2), Rossini (5), Donizetti (9), Bellini (4), Berlioz (1-2), Verdi (13), Wagner (9), Gounod (2), Bizet (2), Massenet (2-3), composers of the interim period and verismo (Ponchielli, Gomes, Cilea, Giordano, Mascagni, etc – 8-9), Puccini (7), Gershwin (1), Poulenc (1), Britten (2). And I haven’t yet mentioned Monteverdi, Purcell, Vivaldi, Handel, Gluck, Haydn, Paisiello, and other composers of the Baroque period who all get programmed in between the others when the schedule can accommodate them. The unadorned truth is that, should the Russian international repertoire (exactly 3 operas written after 1868) disappear, temporary or even forever, it won’t be the major earthquake Putin and his followers predict, not even an mini-earthquake magnitude 1-2 on the Richter scale. Just to make myself clear, nobody wishes for those three operas to disappear, but should they nevertheless disappear, opera houses in the West will go on, they have over 70 mainstream operas to chose from, Monteverdi, Handel & Co not counted. And should everything else fail, they can always program less known opera composers like Mercadante, von Weber, Thomas, Fauré, Reyes, Charpentier or Debussy, or the less known operas of Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Massenet; Donizetti alone wrote over 70 operas. The alleged great share of TV spectators for the recent La Scala broadcast is based on the fact that the Auditel statistics don’t distinguish between spectators who watched the glitzy 25 min political show in the beginning, and those who watched the opera broadcast.
So you see, there never was the question for the Western opera lover of being forced to chose between Boris and Ukrainian composers, you are introducing a false dichotomy. Farewell.