Opera Scotland

Boris Godunov 1917Beecham Grand Opera Company

Read more about the opera Boris Godunov

Sir Thomas Beecham's Grand Opera Company spent the three weeks commencing 5 March 1917 in Edinburgh during the course of a national tour.

The Scotsman review (10 March) ran "It is so seldom that any addition is made to the current provincial operatic repertory, that a larger audience might reasonably have been expected last night for the first performance in Edinburgh of Moussourgsky's Boris Godounov.   Some parts of the King's Theatre were quite well filled, and others more or less fairly so.  Taken all over, however, the attemdance was by no means in keeping with the interest of the occasion.  Modeste Moussorgsky was one of the most remarkable products of the great Russian musical awakening of the mid-nineteenth century, and in Boris Godounov his theories find their most complete expression.  It has been said of Berlioz that he was only a musician by accident.  in other words, that for the things  to which he gave expression, he might, with no necessary loss of effectiveness, have slelcted some other artistic medium, a novel, a play, a poem or a picture.  Something of the same kind is true of Moussorgsky.   He was of the type of undisciplined genius which is forever transcending the due limitations of an artistic medium, and in Boris Godounov there is much which is not really properly operatic, or musical, rather, as for example, everything is Tristan is essentially musical.  But all such considerations apart, Boris Godounov is a work possessed of an extraordinary interest...in some respects, the technique of Moussorgsky paradoxical as the statemenrt may sound, was too limited to admit of his erring through ambittion, and his frequently nave work has a surprising force and effectiveness.  Last night's performance of the opera, which was under the personal direction of Sit Thomas Beecham, was profoundly interesting.  The character of Boris is a matter for a great tragedian, and Mr Robert Radford achieved a remarkable success in an enormously exacting ròl;; another excellent impersonation was that of Mr Maurice D'Oisly as the insincere Prince, Chuisky.  The other personages in the large cast are sketched rather than essential elements in a connected story, but the Gregory, otherwise the pretended Demetrius, of Mr Webster Millar; the Misses Ethel Toms and Desiree Ellinger as Feodor and Xenia respectively, the children of Boris; Miss Edith Clegg as the innkeeper, and latterly as the nurse of the Czar's children; Messrs Frederick Ranalow and Alfred Heather as the two convivial monks, Varlaam and Missaif; and Mr Maurice D'Oisly again as an idiot who mourns the sorrows of the oeople, we all particularly good.  Upon the chorus falls the burden of practically two complete scenss, the bitingly satirical openong, in which, under compulsion, they implore Boris to assume the crown and the stupid savagery of the revolt.  In these there was much good work.  The orchestra was good, and the opera proceeded in a series of striking stage pictures."

The Edinburgh schedule was as follows:

First week: Mon Aïda; Tue Louise; Wed Bohème; Thu Tristan; Fri Boris Godunov; Sat mat Cav & Pag; Sat eve Butterfly.

Second week: Mon Seraglio; Tue Samson & Delilah; Wed mat Bohème; Wed eve Tristan; Thu Tosca; Fri Aïda; Sat mat Butterfly; Sat eve Boris Godunov.

Third week: Mon Magic Flute; Tue Otello; Wed mat Samson & Delilah; Wed eve Bohème; Thu Girl of the Golden West; Fri Faust; Sat mat Magic Flute; Sat eve Cav & Pag.

Boris Godunov took a long time to achieve international success, and received its British premiere in London, at Drury Lane, on 24 June 1913, sung in Russian. It reappeared on 5 July 1916 at the Aldwych Theatre, this time performed in French. Sir Thomas Beecham had inherited the scenery of several productions of Russian works from the Diaghilev company on the outbreak of war, and launched his company's staging, in the new English translation by Rosa Newmarch, on 23 February 1917 in Birmingham. After a national tour that included these two performances in Edinburgh, it opened in London, again at Drury Lane, on 2 June 1917.

The British performances at this time were all in versions using Rimsky-Korsakov's major editorial adjustments. Another notable feature, at least from the evidence of this cast, is that the third, 'Polish' act is omitted, so there are no singers listed for the roles of Marina and her adviser Rangoni.

Abbreviated cast details are from the opening night review in The Scotsman of 10 March.

Performance Cast

Shuisky Prince Vasily Ivanovich Shuisky

Maurice D' Oisly

Boris Godunov Tsar of Russia

Robert Radford

Grigory Otrepiev a novice monk

Webster Millar

Hostess at the inn

Edith Clegg

Missail an itinerant monk

Alfred Heather

Varlaam an itinerant monk

Frederick Ranalow

Xenia Tsarevna daughter of Boris

Desirée Ellinger

Fyodor Tsarevitch son of Boris

Ethel Toms

Nurse to Xenia

Edith Clegg


Maurice D' Oisly

Performance DatesBoris Godunov 1917

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

9 Mar, 00.00 17 Mar, 00.00

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