Evgeny Nesterenko / Mark Ermler

Modest Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov

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Far and away the best thing about this live 1982 Bolshoi performance of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov is Evgeny Nesterenko's portrayal of the title role. An imposing singing actor, Nesterenko fills his characterization with the power and majesty, the tenderness and love, and the terror and madness of the half-crazed Czar. From his first entrance in the ambiguously triumphant "Coronation Scene" to his final mad scene, Nesterenko rules over this performance with his commanding interpretation. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast is not in his league. Vladimir Atlantov is whiney and simpering as the Pretender Grigory, Yelena Obraztsova is harsh and shrill as Princess Marine, and the remainder of the cast is standard-issue Bolshoi: big, blustery, and, to Western ears, overblown. Conductor Mark Ermler does an adequate job of holding the work together, but he fails to bring anything more than competency to his work: all sense of dramatic drive comes from Nesterenko. Recorded in cavernous sound that is hardly improved by the remastering, this Boris will be of interest to those who have to hear everything that Nesterenko did, but of less interest to fans of the work who already know the classic recordings.

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