Enter Boris Goudenow, Just 295 Years Late

Richard Taruskin

in The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780520249776
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942790 | DOI:
Enter Boris Goudenow, Just 295 Years Late

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This chapter discusses the opera Boris Goudenow, a famous masterpiece of realism by Modest Mussorgsky. Boris is a kaleidoscopic entertainment that catered to its audience's presumed attention span with a multitude of tiny numbers for a varied cast of ten soloists and a prominent chorus; with serious and comic scenes intermixed à la Shakespeare in defiance of courtly neoclassical principle; and with dancing bodies vying for notice with singing ones. Stylistically, like many operas by Hamburgers, it is a sandwich of French bread and Italian fillers. Like a Versailles court extravaganza by Lully, it begins with a pompous overture and ends with a stage- and eye-filling chaconne. Along the way, many of the arias, especially amorous ones, are sung in Italian—although just as many, and all the dialogues, are sung in German—simply because, as Mattheson wrote, “the Italian language suits music very well.”

Keywords: Boris Goudenow; chaconne; Modest Mussorgsky; Matteson; Russian royal dynasty

Chapter.  1928 words. 

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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