La Scala Is Getting Ready to Open the Season With ‘Boris Godunov’

An original production of the nineteenth-century masterpiece by Russian composer Modest Musorgski is opening the new season of the most famous opera house in the world.

Modest Petrovič Musorgsky’s “Boris Godunov,” conducted by Maestro Riccardo Chailly and directed by Kasper Holten, the visionary Danish director is the first performance of the season. The all-star cast includes Ildar Abdrazakov, Lilly Jørstad, and Anna Denisova. Brescia/Amisano

Few things are intrinsically identifying with the identity of this city: panettone, fashion, design, and the opening of the season at La Scala, the most famous opera house in the world.

Every 7th of December, during the day of festivities dedicated to Milan’s saint patron, Ambrose, La Scala theatre officially opens its new season with the “Prima della Scala,” a glamorous gala that this year will be attended by the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, as well as many other dignitaries and celebrities.

This year is the turn of Modest Petrovič Musorgsky’s “Boris Godunov,” conducted by Maestro Riccardo Chailly and directed by Kasper Holten, the visionary Danish director. The all-star cast includes Ildar Abdrazakov, Lilly Jørstad, and Anna Denisova.

A one-of-a-kind event, the premiere is the city’s most exciting event and reaches millions of viewers thanks to the “Prima Diffusa” initiative that invites everyone to be part of the evening thanks to live streamings free of charge at 35 unusual venues around Milan. For those who don’t want to leave the comfort of the sofa, the first performance of the opera will be also broadcasted on the Italian public television channel Rai 1.

Dominique Meyer, superintendent of La Scala, to the questions raised over the opera’s Russian origin said that they “are not propagandizing Russian events or Vladimir Putin, there is a difference between the current political situation in Russia and a great masterpiece of art history. There is nothing in this opera that goes against Ukraine. We made a reasonable decision about the choice of this Premiere and in the libretto of the opera you can read why, it does not make an apologia for the regime but rather the opposite.”

Modest Petrovič Musorgsky’s “Boris Godunov,” conducted by Maestro Riccardo Chailly and directed by Kasper Holten, the visionary Danish director is the first performance of the season. The all-star cast includes Ildar Abdrazakov, Lilly Jørstad, and Anna Denisova. Photo: Brescia/Amisano – Teatro alla Scala.

The origin of the libretto emphasizes the play by Aleksandr Pushkin, composed in 1825, which tells the opposite of a defence for a political regime. “When the war broke out, we decided to do a concert for Ukraine raising 400 thousand euros to support the families of the victims and welcomed children from the Kyiv dance school. We then presented the season not seeing fit to cancel Boris Godunov” Mr. Meyer continued.

Mr. Holten also reiterated the detachment from the accusation of propaganda and insisted on the universal message of the opera. “The key is to go back as far as Shakespeare, from whom Puskin, who wrote Boris, was inspired. Boris is reminiscent of Richard III and Macbeth: we have introduced the ghosts of the victims on stage. In the play we see the manipulation of public opinion while the figure of Pimen is like that of a journalist fighting for freedom of speech,” Mr Holten said.

Mr. Abdrazakov, who is Russian, said that for him “this is a very important role, it is not a singing role but a role of soul and fire. The whole cast is wonderful and it is always a great honour and pleasure for me to be here. I am the happiest singer in the world because I am at La Scala for the opening of the season.”

Performances begin with the opening of the season, on December 7.

Jessica Capretti is a frequent contributor to Milano Art Guide since 2021. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan and has worked on several projects including “L’Arc de Triomphe Wrapped” by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, in Paris. She lives and works in Milan.