Controversy around the programming of “Boris Godounov” at the opening of La Scala in Milan

Since last February, Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine and the ensuing horrors of war, the place of Russian works and artists has regularly come to the fore. Should we indeed continue to program them in theatres, concert halls, galleries and museums?

To these complex questions, clear answers have already been given: no more invitations addressed to artists supporting the actions of Vladimir Putin and, contrary to the chain of decision-making, no ostracism towards the creations of Pushkin or Chagall, Tchaikovsky or Tolstoy, on the pretext of their Russian origin.

Between these two poles, the choice to schedule or cancel was submitted on a case-by-case basis, depending on the country, the sensitivities, the freedom of expression sometimes wrongly attributed to Russian artists…

Propaganda for Vladimir Putin?

In Milan, where the famous Scala Wednesday, December 7 its traditional and prestigious opening night, the controversy may surprise. The Ukrainian consul in Milan, Andrii Kartysh, is he not mistaken in reproaching the lyrical institution for having put on the program Boris Godunovopera composed by Modeste Moussorgski, based on a dramatic chronicle by Pouchkine, created in Saint-Petersburg on February 8, 1874?

Dominique Meyer, the boss of La Scala, was quick to respond that it could in no way be an act of propaganda in favor of Vladimir Putin, deploying several arguments and in particular the decision to lay off poster of this Boristaken, as is customary in the world of opera, already three years ago.

Incidentally, La Scala recalls that it unequivocally canceled the commitments of the conductor Valery Gergiev, once frequently applauded in Milan, as soon as the musician’s pro-Putin positions were confirmed…

The excesses of power

But the most convincing defense in favor of Boris just… Boris himself. In addition to its dazzling and poignant musical beauty, from gleaming choral splendor to the most bare-bones intimate introspection, the opera offers a ruthless reflection on the mistakes and abuses of power. Whose tragic outbursts can only end in the disappearance of the tyrant plagued by visions and undermined by remorse.

The libretto is inspired by the life of the Tsar who ruled Russia from 1594, usurping the throne from Fedor I, son of Ivan the Terrible. Considered a vocal grail by bass-baritones, Boris’s death at the end of the work is a height of emotion, like the great Shakespearean monologues, bringing together the entire human condition under the wing of the poetry and music.

To be continued on Arte Concert

In the presence of the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Italian President Sergio Mattarella, the rise, the crime and then the hallucinated downfall of Tsar Boris Godounov (1551-1605) will not incite- they not to consider more than ever the madness to which the thirst for power can lead?

As for the public, they will be able to form their own opinion, in particular by connecting this Wednesday, December 7 at 11:30 p.m. to the channel Art Concert. It offers the retransmission of the show, under the direction of Riccardo Chailly, the musical director of La Scala, and in a staging by Kasper Holten.


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