Sunday, November 28, 2010


Our local cinema complex holds Sunday afternoon screenings of what I can only describe as 'cultural events'. They are sparsely attended.
In 2004 I paid $4,000 to travel to and attend the Adelaide production of Wagner's Ring Cycle, all four operas. They were magnificent but last month I paid $28 to attend the screening of New York Metropolitan Opers's production of Das Rheingold, the first of the Ring Cycle and it was even more magnificent that the Adelaide experience. Brilliant photography put us right on the stage of the Met, looking at Bryn Terfel's tonsils, we were so close.
So yesterday I, and six other people watched and listened to Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov which ran for 5 hours 30 minutes. My head is still ringing with the music, my eyes are still dazzled from the opulence of the production, and my mind is still grappling with the complexities of a plot straight out of Aristotle's Poetics.
Boris Gudonov ruled Russia in the sixteenth century. He was a kindly, well intentioned man who did not understand the hugeness of his task. He wanted to be loved by his subjects so he handed out scraps of bread to a few beggars be but had no concept of the reforms needed to make a real difference. He was gullible, believing the fairy tales fed to him by corrupt boyars and greedy churchmen.
There is a lot of subtle political comment, for example the itinerant friars who rob a sleeping guest in a wayside inn, the shallow bitchiness of the Polish court,and finally the dying Boris who advises his son to rule Russia by 'heeding the simple wisdom of the common people and to trust in God,' while outside those common people are rioting and welcoming the false pretender Dmitri, and the military arm of the Roman church including those two venal friars who have swapped from Orthodox to Catholic.
What I found tragic was the thought that four hundred years later people have still not learned 'simple wisdom'. But the sight of two horses being ridden on to the vast stage at the Metropolitan Opera House was worth every cent of the admission price.

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