That enfant terrible of the opera stage Calixto Bieito must be mellowing in his middle age – either that or we have become numbed to the edgy Spanish director’s naughty ways. How else to explain why his take on Mussorgsky’s masterpiece Boris Godunov has less shock value than your average episode of Midsomer Murders? True he does have the Simpleton shot by a teenage girl, not to mention one of the crowd beaten to a pulp – oh and in Boris’s great death scene the pretender Dmitri strangles Xenia and suffocates the Tsarevich Fyodor.  

This Bayerische Staatsoper production is set in recent times. We know this because the chorus hold up posters of Putin, Bush, Sarkozy and Berlusconi. Bieito ditches the third act but strangely this causes little collateral damage. That’s because Bieito has a trump card in 38-year-old Ukrainian bass Alexander Tsymbalyuk, who is undoubtedly on the verge of a stellar career. He has everything
– good looks, dramatic nous and
a gorgeous voice that has delicacy as well as power.

He’s backed by a first-class cast including Anatoli Kotscherga as Pimen and Vladimir Matorin who makes a good Varlaam, looking uncannily like the famous portrait of the drink-ravaged Mussorgsky. The mood is suitably noir and Kent Nagano and the Munich band and chorus are excellent.

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