Robert William Oldani, Caryl Emerson

Modest Musorgsky and Boris Godunov

Reading sample

Myths, Realities, Reconsiderations
Cambridge Opera Handbooks

Boek (softcover)

Item no.696689
Author/ComposerRobert William Oldani, Caryl Emerson
Scope356 pages; 15.2 × 22.8 cm
Release year2006
Publisher/ProducerCambridge University Press
Producer No.9780521369763
69.60 €
Delivery time approx. 1–2 weeks.
add to watch list


Caryl Emerson (a literary specialist) and Robert William Oldani (a music historian) take a comprehensive look at the most famous Russian opera, Modest Musorgsky's Boris Godunov. The result is both a historical study of a famous work and an interpretative piece of scholarship. The topics discussed include: the 'Boris Tale' in history; Karamzin's history and Pushkin's drama as literary sources; Musorgsky's innovations as a librettist and as a theorist of the sung Russian word; the strange story of the opera's composition and revision; its first productions at home and abroad; and an in-depth musical analysis. In the process, several often-met errors in Musorgsky scholarship are clarified and corrected. A final chapter speculates on the opera's themes of political murder, guilt and legitimacy - so important to Russian literary and national identity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries - and the new role the 'Boris plot' and its composer might come to play in more recent phases of Russian cultural life.

  • Offers an in-depth study of Russia's most famous opera
  • Contains valuable archival material including documents and texts translated into English for the first time and rare photographs
  • Written in an accessible style


  • List of illustrations
  • List of tables
  • Preface and acknowledgments
  • Part I Background:
  • 1 Tsar Boris in history
  • 2 Musorgsky's literary sources, Karamzin and Pushkin
  • 3 Narrative and musical synopsis of the opera
  • 4 History of the composition, rejection, revision, and acceptance of Boris Godunov
  • 5 A tale of two productions - St Petersburg (1874–1882), Paris (1908)
  • Part II Entr'acte: 6 Boris and the censor: documents
  • 7 The opera through the years: selected texts in criticism
  • Part III Interpretation:
  • 8 The Boris libretto as a formal, literary, and historical problem
  • 9 The music
  • 10 Boris Godunov during the jubilee decade: the 1980s and beyond
  • Discography
  • Bibliography
  • Index