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Evgeny Nesterenko in the Coronation Scene from Boris Gudonov

By March 15, 2018March 16th, 2023No Comments

Believe it or not, this is a living artist.  Evgeny Yevgenievich Nesterenko (Евгений Евгеньевич Нестеренко, born January 8, 1938) is a Russian operatic bass.  I have put two versions into this post:  one by Nesterenko and one by Chaliapin.  The Chaliapin recording is much older.  In this recording, Boris’s monologue starts at about 4:00 minutes in.  Chaliapin was one of the Russia’s most famous basses and one of the most famous Borises ever produced.  See which one you like better and why.

Nesterenko’s first profession was architecture, and he was graduated from the Engineering and Construction Institute in Leningrad. His interest was in music, and he studied under Vasily Lukanin at the Leningrad Conservatory. During his last year at the conservatory (1965), Nesterenko was invited to sing at Leningrad’s Maly Opera Theatre, and after graduation, he joined the famous Mariinsky Opera and Ballet Theatre. He won the gold medal at the 4th Moscow International Tchaikovsky Competition, which won him an invitation to Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre.

Nesterenko has sung over 80 leading bass parts and has performed 21 operas in their original languages. He has performed the main parts in operas by Glinka, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, and Borodin and was the first to perform many works by Shostakovich, Sviridov and Taktakishvili.  He is considered by many to be the finest living Tsar Boris in Boris Gudonov.

Nesterenko follows in the great tradition of Russian basses/bass-baritones that we have seen in other postings.  He has a very powerful, deep, rich sonorous voice.  The text of the Coronation Scene follows below (this time, I was able to fit the original Russian in).  A little bit about the obera follows below.


Скорбит душа.
Какой-то страх
предчувствием сковал
мне сердце
О праведник, о мой
отец державный!
Воззри с небес на
слёзы верных слуг
и ниспошли ты мне
на власть
да буду благ и
праведен, как ты;
да в славе правлю
свой народ…
Теперь поклонимся
властителям Русии.
А там сзывать народ
на пир,
всех, от бояр до
нищего слепца,
всем вольный вход,
все – гости дорогие! 


Skorbit dusha
Kakoj-to strakh
predchuvstvijem skoval
mne serdce.
O pravednik, o, moj
otec, derzhavnyj!
Vozzri s nebes na
sljozy vernykh slug
i niposhli ty mne
na vlast’
Da budu blag i
praveden, kak ty,
da v slave pravlju
svoj narod . . . .
Teper’ poklonimsja
vlastiteljam Rusii,
a tam szvat’ narod
na pir,
vsekh, ot boyar do
nishchevo slepca
vsem vol’nyj vkhod
vse gosti dorogije.


My soul is sad!
A secret terror haunts me;
With evil presentments my
heart is stifled.

O Lord above, O Thou
Almighty Father!
From Heaven’s throne
behold our contrite tears
and with your blessing grant
me holiness and strength that they may guide me
O make me just and merciful
as Thou; in glory let me rule
my land.

Now let us kneel and pay
homage at the tombs of
Russia’s monarchs.

And then our people shall
feast, yea, ev’ry man, from
boyar down to serf;
All we shall greet, all gladly
shall we Welcome!

The Opera

Boris Godunov (Russian: Борис Годунов, Borís Godunóv) is an opera by Modest Mussorgsky (1839–1881). The work was composed between 1868 and 1873 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It is Mussorgsky’s only completed opera and is considered his masterpiece. Its subjects are the Russian ruler Boris Godunov, who reigned as Tsar (1598 to 1605) during the Time of Troubles, and his nemesis, the False Dmitriy (reigned 1605 to 1606). The Russian-language libretto was written by the composer, and is based on the drama Boris Godunov by Aleksandr Pushkin, and, in the Revised Version of 1872, on Nikolay Karamzin’s History of the Russian State.

Among major operas, Boris Godunov shares with Giuseppe Verdi’s Don Carlos (1867) the distinction of having an extremely complex creative history, as well as a great wealth of alternative material. The composer created two versions—the Original Version of 1869, which was rejected for production by the Imperial Theaters, and the Revised Version of 1872, which received its first performance in 1874 in Saint Petersburg.

Several composers, chief among them Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov and Dmitri Shostakovich, have created new editions of the opera to “correct” perceived technical weaknesses in the composer’s original scores. Although these versions held the stage for decades, Mussorgsky’s individual harmonic style and orchestration are now valued for their originality, and revisions by other hands have fallen out of fashion.

Boris Godunov comes closer to the status of a repertory piece than any other Russian opera, even Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, and is the most recorded Russian opera.

1896, Saint Petersburg – Premiere of the Rimsky-Korsakov edition

The Rimsky-Korsakov edition premiered on November 28, 1896 in the Great Hall of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov conducted. The production ran for 4 performances.

1898, Moscow – Fyodor Shalyapin as Boris

Bass Fyodor Chaliapin first appeared as Boris on December 7, 1898 at the Solodovnikov Theatre in a Private Russian Opera production. The Rimsky-Korsakov edition of 1896 was performed. The production ran for 14 performances.

1908, Paris – First performance outside Russia

The Rimsky-Korsakov edition of 1908 premiered on May 19, 1908 at the Paris Opéra. Production personnel included Sergey Dyagilev (if you don’t know how he was, look him up)  (producer).  The cast included Fyodor Chaliapin (Boris).  The production ran for 7 performances.

The United States premiere of the 1908 Rimsky-Korsakov edition took place on March 19, 1913 at the Metropolitan Opera, and was based on Sergey Dyagilev’s Paris production. The opera was sung in Italian. Arturo Toscanini conducted.

1913, London – United Kingdom premiere

The United Kingdom premiere of the 1908 Rimsky-Korsakov edition took place on June 24, 1913 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London. Production personnel included Sergey Dyagilev (producer).  The cast included Fyodor Chaliapin (Boris).

1928, Leningrad – World premiere of the 1869 Original Version

The Original Version of 1869 premiered on 16 February 1928 at the State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet. Production personnel included Sergey Radlov (stage director), and Vladimir Dmitriyev (scene designer). Vladimir Dranishnikov conducted. The cast included Mark Reyzen (Boris), Aleksandr Kabanov (Shuysky), Ivan Pleshakov (Pimen), Nikolay Pechkovsky (Pretender), Pavel Zhuravlenko (Varlaam), Yekaterina Sabinina (Innkeeper), and V. Tikhiy (Yuródivïy).

1872 Revised Version

The Revised Version of 1872 represents a retreat from the ideals of Kuchkist realism, which had come to be associated with comedy, toward a more exalted, tragic tone, and a conventionally operatic style—a trend that would be continued in the composer’s next opera, Khovanshchina.  This version is longer, is richer in musical and theatrical variety, and balances naturalistic declamation with more lyrical vocal lines.

This version has made a strong comeback in recent years, and has become the dominant version.

Igor Buketoff (1997)

The American conductor Igor Buketoff created a version in which he removed most of Rimsky-Korsakov’s additions and reorchestrations, and fleshed out some other parts of Mussorgsky’s original orchestration. This version had its first performance in 1997 at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, under Valery Gergiev.


An understanding of the drama of Boris Godunov may be facilitated by a basic knowledge of the historical events surrounding the Time of Troubles, the interregnum of relative anarchy following the end of the Ryurik Dynasty (1598) and preceding the Romanov Dynasty (1613). Key events are as follows:

    • 1584– Ivan IV “The Terrible”, the first Grand Prince of Muscovy to officially adopt the title Tsar (Caesar), dies. Ivan’s successor is his feeble son, Fyodor I, who cares only for spiritual matters and leaves the affairs of state to his capable brother-in-law, boyar Boris Godunov.
    • 1591– Ivan’s other son, the eight-year-old Tsarevich Dmitriy Ivanovich, dies under mysterious circumstances in Uglich. An investigation, ordered by Godunov and carried out by Prince Vasiliy Shuysky, determines that the Tsarevich, while playing with a knife, suffered an epileptic seizure, fell, and died from a self-inflicted wound to the throat. Dmitriy’s mother, Maria Nagaya, banished with him to Uglich by Godunov, claims he was assassinated. Rumors linking Boris to the death are circulated by his enemies.
    • 1598– Tsar Fyodor I dies. He is the last of the Ryurik Dynasty, who have ruled Russia for seven centuries. Patriarch Job of Moscow nominates Boris to succeed as Tsar, despite the rumors that Boris ordered the murder of Dmitriy. Boris agrees to accept the throne only if elected by the Zemsky Sobor. This the assembly does unanimously, and Boris is crowned the same year.
    • 1601– The Russian famine of 1601–1603 undermines Boris Godunov’s popularity and the stability of his administration.
    • 1604– A pretender to the throne appears in Poland, claiming to be Tsarevich Dmitriy, but believed to be in reality one Grigoriy Otrepyev. He gains the support of the Szlachta, magnates, and, upon conversion to Roman Catholicism, the Apostolic Nuncio Claudio Rangoni. Obtaining a force of soldiers, he marches on Moscow. The False Dmitriy’s retinue includes the Jesuits Lawicki and Czernikowski, and the monks Varlaam and Misail of the Chudov Monastery. Crossing into Russia, Dmitriy’s invasion force is joined by disaffected Cossacks. However, after a few victories, the campaign falters. Polish mercenaries mutiny and desert.
    • 1605– Boris dies of unknown causes. He is succeeded by his son, Fyodor II. The death of Boris gives new life to the campaign of the False Dmitriy. Boyars who have gone over to the Pretender murder Fyodor II and his mother. The False Dmitriy enters Moscow and is soon crowned. Prince Shuysky begins plotting against him.
    • 1606– The Russian boyars oppose Dmitriy’s Polish and Catholic alliances. He is murdered shortly after wedding Marina Mniszech, and is succeeded by Vasiliy Shuysky, now Vasiliy IV.
    • 1610– Vasiliy IV is deposed, and dies two years later in a Polish prison. Another pretender claiming to be Dmitriy Ivanovich, False Dmitriy II, is murdered.
    • 1611– Yet a third pretender, False Dmitriy III, appears. He is captured and executed in 1612.
    • 1613– The Time of Troubles comes to a close with the accession of Mikhail Romanov, son of Fyodor Romanov, who had been persecuted under Boris Godunov’s reign.