Thursday, 14 August 2014

Boris Christoff: An Illustrated Discography


NB. The discography is separated into two major parts. The first part deals with complete or nearly complete recordings of operas arranged in alphabetical order by the composer’s last name. The second part includes albums and various compilations with arias, songs and church music; here the order combines chronological and thematic principles. In both cases most information is supplied with CD covers. When these are unavailable, details are given in situ. Otherwise the text between the covers is kept to minimum. Different editions of the same recording are listed as completely as it is possible to illustrate them. For those who want to know more, the ultimate source remains this one.


COMPLETE OPERAS


Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)

Fidelio – Rocco – Gui – Radio, 28/11/1955, Rome (in Italian).
Recorded on 28/11/1955. Broadcast on 30/11/1955. 








Fidelio – Pizarro – Maazel – Live, 13/2/1964, Rome Opera.
Omega Opera Archive 1730 (& 1236)


Vincenzo Bellini (1801 – 1835)

Norma – Oroveso  Votto – Live, 1953, Teatro Verdi, Trieste.
You can find “I te sul colle, o Druidi” from this performance on the Legato Classics selection with live recordings from 1953-80 (see below).

Arrigo Boito (1842 – 1918)

Mefistofele – Mefistofele – Gui – Studio, 1955, Rome.
Act 4 is omitted.





Alexander Borodine (1833 – 1887)

Prince Igor – Galitsky, Konchak – Danon – Live, 12/10/1962, Lyric Opera, Chicago.
Omega Opera Archive 176.

Prince Igor – Galitsky, Konchak – La Rossa Parodi – Radio, 19/09/1964, Rome 
(in Italian).




Prince Igor – Galitsky, Konchak – Semkow – Studio, 5/1966, Salle Wagram, Paris.






Domenico Cimarosa (1749 – 1801)

Il Matrimonio Segretto – Il conte Robinson – Rossi – Live, 22/03/1949, La Scala, Milan.
Melodram CD 29505.

Gaetano Donizetti (1797 – 1848)

Anna Bolena – Enrico – Ferro – Live, 4/1977, Rome Opera.
On Stage 4719/3; Gala GL 100 659 (highlights + recording - Lewis + highlights - Rudel) (2006).

Mikhail Glinka (1804 – 1857)

A Life for the Tsar – Ivan Susanin – Simonetto – Radio, 5/12/1954, Milan (in Italian).




A Life for the Tsar – Ivan Susanin – Markevitch – Studio, 1957, Paris.
EMI 69698. LP cover below!



A Life for the Tsar – Ivan Susanin –  Semkow – Radio, 23/9/1974, Turin.
Recorded 31/5/74. Broadcast 23/9/74. Omega Opera Archive 2570. In Italian?


Charles Gounod (1818 – 1893)

Faust – Méphistophélès – Cluytens – Studio, 1953, Paris.
Poor sound even for EMI’s standards at the time. The stereo remake was a good idea indeed!




Faust – Méphistophélès – Santini – Live, 8/1954, Arena Flegrea, Naples.
Bongiovanni "Historical Opera Collection" HOC 009/11.

Faust – Méphistophélès – Cluytens – Studio, 1958, Paris.
Boris was reportedly reluctant to do this stereo remake only five years later and with virtually the same cast. It doesn’t show. Like it or not, his idiosyncratic Mephistopheles is just as impressive and memorable, if not more so indeed, as in the old recording.










Georg Friedrich Handel (1685 – 1759)

Giulio Cesare in Egitto – Guilio Cesare – Gavazzeni – Live, 26/12/1955, Rome Opera.



 





Giulio Cesare in Egitto – Guilio Cesare – Rescigno – Live, 6/2/1966, La Fenice, Venice.



Pietro Mascagni (1863 – 1945)

Iris – Il Cieco – Gavazzeni – Live, 12/1956, Rome Opera.



Jules Massenet (1842 – 1912)

Don Quichotte – Don Quichotte – Simonetto – Radio, 25/5/1957, Milan (in Italian).
Recorded 25/5/1957. Broadcast 6/2/1958.




Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791 – 1864)

Robert le Diable – Bertram – Sanzogno – Live, 7/5/1968, Teatro Comunale, Florence.


Claudio Monteverdi (1567 – 1643)

L’Incoronazione del Poppea – Seneca – Franci – Live, 11/1966, Teatro Comunale.
In 1979 Boris recorded Seneca’s Death for Balkanton (see below).



Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)

La Betulia Liberata – Achior – Rossi – Radio, 30/4/1952, Turin.





Die Zauberflöte – Sarastro – Gui – Live, 27/1/1956, San Carlo, Naples.
Compact Cassette - Lyric Distribution ALD 3013.

Modest Mussorgsky (1839 – 1881)

Boris Godunov – Boris, Pimen, Varlaam – Dobrowen – Studio, 7/1952, Paris.
This legendary recording has been released on CD countless times. Pearl and Naxos offer perhaps the best sound. The Pearl edition is also remarkable because it contains four previously unreleased songs, including Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Prophet” with Philharmonia and Wilhelm Schüchter. It makes for an interesting comparison with the version from 1963/64 with Andre Cluytens.









Boris Godunov – Boris – Rodzinsky – Radio, 1952, Rome (in Italian).
Recorded 21/03/1952, broadcast 10/12/1952?






Boris Godunov – Boris – Kubelik – Live, 6/11/1958, Covent Garden, London.
Wrong month on the Myto release.



Boris Godunov – Boris – Goodall – Live, 10/6/1961, Covent Garden, London.
House of Opera CD 274.

Boris Godunov – Boris, Pimen, Varlaam – Cluytens – Studio, 9/1962, Salle Wagram, Paris.
The re-make is strikingly different in nearly every aspect, from the sound quality and the conducting to subtle shades and nuances in Boris’ interpretation. It has been released at least twice on CD by EMI, more recently in 2002 as part of their Great Recordings of the Century series. The new remastering offers but slight improvement over the old edition from 1987.









Boris Godunov – Boris – Rozhdestvensky – Live, 7/3/1970, Covent Garden, London.
Oriel Music Society OMS 137/3 (2001).

Boris Godunov – Boris – Ahronovitch – Live, 11/1974, Covent Garden, London.
Compact Cassette - Charles Handelman - Live Opera 00354.
Presumably an "in-house" recording, not a broadcast.

Khovanshchina – Dosifey – Rodzinsky – Radio, 3/7/1958, Rome (in Italian).
Recorded 14/6/1958. Broadcast 3/7/1958.




Carl Nielsen (1865 – 1931)

Saul and David – Saul – Horenstein – Radio, 1972/73, Copenhagen.
The only part Boris ever sang in English.




Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (1844 – 1908)

The Golden Cockerel – Tsar Dodon – Freccia – Radio, 24/9/1961, Rome (in Italian).




The Maid of Pskov – Ivan the Terrible – Hubad – Live, 13/1/1968, Teatro Verdi, Trieste 
(in Italian).




The Maid of Pskov – Ivan the Terrible – Schippers – Live, 18/3/1969, Rome Opera 
(in Italian).






Gioacchino Rossini (1792 – 1868)

Moise et Pharaon – Mose – Bartoletti – Live, 3/1971, Rome Opera.
Giuseppe di Stefano GDS 21036.

Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)

Mazeppa – Kochubey – Perlea – Live, 6/6/1954, Teatro Comunale, Florence.






Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901)

Macbeth – Banco – Rossi – Radio, 16/10/1949, Turin.
The only time Boris sang this opera complete; he never did on the stage.
Compact Cassette – Charles Handelman – Live Opera 00632

Don Carlo – Filippo II – Santini – Studio, 10/1954, Rome.
This is a legendary recording released multiple times by various labels. The mono is excellent and the cast is nearly perfect. The problem is the cuts. Not only is this the four-act version (which I, honestly, consider musically and dramatically superior), but there are several annoying cuts even in the great duet between Philip and Elisabeth in Act 3.








Don Carlo – Filippo II – Giulini – Live, 12/5/1958, Covent Garden, London.
Many connoisseurs regard this as Boris’ finest Philip II. And with good reason. Boris was in fabulous form that night; it must have been quite an experience for the audience. “Ella giammai m’amo” is suffused with tragic grandeur Boris didn’t always achieve in the studio. Note also his mighty fist smashing on the table at “No, giammai” in the scene with the Great Inquisitor. Also notable are the young Jon Vickers, one of the very few tenors who do justice to the title character’s complexity and humanity, and Giulini’s impassioned conducting.






Don Carlo – Filippo II – Santi – Live, 1/8/1960, Festspielhaus, Salzburg.




Don Carlo – Filippo II – Votto – Live, 14/10/1960, Lyric Opera, Chicago.




                                      Don Carlo – Filippo II – Rossi – Radio, 5/5/1961, Turin.     
        

Don Carlo – Filippo II – Santini – Studio, 7/1961, La Scalla, Milan.
This is the five-act version and there are no cuts in the intense duet between Philip and Elisabeth in the penultimate act. Sonically superior to the 1954 mono effort. Cast-wise, there are pros and cons. Boris is rock-solid in both recordings; Bastianini is, for me, hugely preferable to Gobbi’s desiccated tone. Cossotto and Vinco are in no why inferior to the spectacular Nicolai and Neri. The title part remains problematic. Both Filippeschi and Labo are brash and rather insensitive tenors.













Don Carlo – Filippo II – Pritchard – 11/4/1963, Covent Garden, London.



Don Carlo – Filippo II – Downes – 10/6/1966, Covent Garden, London.


Don Carlo – Filippo II – Franci – 4/1969, La Fenice, Venice.
Mondo Musica MFOH 10271 (1998).

Don Carlo – Filippo II – Guadagno – 26/4/1976, Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid.
The Opera Lovers DON 197601.

Don Carlo – Filippo II – Conlon – Live, 3-4/1979, Covent Garden, London.
Premiere Opera Ltd. CDNO 663-3.

Don Carlo – Filippo II – Neuhold – Live, 1/1982, Teatro Regio, Parma.
Premiere Opera Ltd. CDNO 396-3.


Ernani – Silva – Mitropoulos – Live, 25/6/1957, Teatro Comunale, Florence.
Together with the 1958 Forza (see below), this is yet another live recording often cited as the best rendition of this particular opera, poor sound and outrageous cuts notwithstanding. Del Monaco, Cerquetti, Bastianini and Boris would make even Bach’s dull cantatas sound exciting. Imagine what they could do – what they in fact did – with a rambunctious melodrama chock-full with gorgeous tunes like Ernani. Silva’s cabaletta, unfortunately, is cut.









Ernani – Silva – Gavazzeni – Radio, 26/11/1968, Milan.
Compared to the previous Ernani, this one looks pallid. On its own, however, it is a fine performance, with the young Caballe tossing off Elvira’s part as if it were “Jingle Bells”. Boris is not quite as fresh as he was 11 years earlier in Florence, but he is still in great shape; and Silva’s cabaletta is retained, albeit without the repeat.






La Forza del Destino – Padre Guardiano – Sanzogno – Radio, 29/9/1957, Rome.
This is nowhere near as good as the other Forza. The cast is, on the whole, weaker, and the sterile atmosphere of the radio studio is nothing like the excitement live in the theatre. But there is much to recommend this recording. Tebaldi is unsurpassable, but Cerquetti is no slouch either. Boris and Capecchi are nearly as fine here as they are on the next year in Naples. It is a great pleasure to have the dashing Simionato as Preziosilla.




La Forza del Destino – Padre Guardiano – Molinari-Pradelli – Live, 15/3/1958, 
San Carlo, Naples.
Quite simply, the finest Forza out there, fortunately also available on video (see below). Many argue in favour of the 1953 live recording under the incandescent baton of Dimitri Mitropoulous, but I think the conducting is just about its only real advantage. Otherwise it is either equal to this one (Del Monaco = Corelli, Simionato = Dominguez, Tebaldi is equally stunning both times) or inferior (Protti < Bastianini, poorer sound, no picture). The 1955 studio recording is among the best efforts from Decca’s early stereo era, but there we have Siepi and Corena replacing, respectively, Boris and Capecchi. For my part, both substitutes are unfortunate. Not that Siepi and Corena are bad; far from it; Boris and Capecchi simply are incredible.






Aida – Ramfis – Santini – Live, 7-8/1954, Arena Flegrea, Naples (excerpts).
Very poor sound. 
Bongiovanni «The Golden Age of Opera» GAO 134; 
Bongiovanni «Historical Opera Collection» HOCO 11 (2004).

Aida – Ramfis – Perlea – Studio, 7/1955, Rome.





I Vespri Siciliani – Giovanni da Procida – Kleiber – Live, 26/5/1951, 
Teatro Comunale, Florence.











 


I Vespri Siciliani – Giovanni da Procida – Rossi – Radio, 9/10/1955, Turin.







Simon Boccanegra – Jacopo Fiesco – Santini – Studio, 10/1957, Rome.








Simon Boccanegra – Jacopo Fiesco – Oren – Live, 10/5/1980, Rome Opera.
Open Reel Tape - mr. tape 8474.

Attila – Attila – Bartoletti – Live, 1/12/1962, Teatro Comunale, Florence.

 

Attila – Attila – Bartoletti – Live, 10/1/1976, La Fenice, Venice.
On Stage 4703; Mondo Musica MFOH 10151; 
The Opera Lovers ATT 196801(Canada) (2005).

I Masnadieri – Massimiliano – Gavazzeni – Live, 29/11/1972, Rome Opera.



Nabucco – Zaccaria – Bartoletti – Live, 4/10/1963, Lyric Opera, Chicago.
Omega Opera Archive 1109; Premiere Opera Ltd. CDNO 1260-2.
Several precious excerpts from this performance are included on the Legato CD with live performances from 1953-80 (see below).

Nabucco – Zaccaria – De Fabritis – Live, 15/1/1974, Teatro Massimo, Palermo.
Opera Depot OD 10345-2 (2008).

Nabucco – Zaccaria – Zino – Live, 15/1/1978, Teatro Petruzzelli, Bari.
Omega Opera Archive 4050.

Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883)

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg – Pogner – Matacic – Radio, 1/1962, Turin.


Parsifal – Gurnemanz – Gui – Radio, 20-21/11/1950, Rome.











Parsifal – Gurnemanz – Cluytens – Live, 2/5/1960, La Scala, Milan.





Tannhäuser – Hermann – Bohm – Live, 12/3/1950, Teatro di San Carlo, Naples.




Carl Maria von Weber (1786 – 1826)

Der Freischutz – Kaspar – Gui – Radio, 28/11/1954 (date of recording).
Broadcast on January 12, 1955.





ARIAS, SONGS, CHURCH MUSIC

NB. Countless promiscuous selections have been released through the years. The following list is highly selective. Only official releases on CD are included, though some of them are by rather disreputable labels. Duplications are numerous, of course, but they are tolerated if the edition in question also contains some hard-to-find gems.

Arias, Overtures & Intermezzi (Karajan Edition, EMI)
In addition to the well-known recordings of Philip’s soliloquy and Varlaam’s drinking song, this CD includes the first-ever – and, to the best of my belief, the only one – release of the Serenade from Faust, also recorded in 1949 with Philharmonia and Karajan.



Prima Voce: Boris Christoff (Studio, 1949-54, Nimbus).
Comprehensive selection of early studio recordings. The third disc is especially valuable. The first 11 tracks from 1954 are one of Boris’ rarest and finest LPs. The seven Russian folksongs demonstrate the staggering resources of his voice with completeness and vividness no seven opera arias can match. Also available on Preisser IV (see below). Lishkin (CD 3) and Caldara (CD 1) are pretty rare, too.








Lebendige Vergangenheit I (1949-50, Preisser).
Nothing terribly rare here, but a fine selection of (mostly) Russian arias in superlative transfers. 



  
Lebendige Vergangenheit II (Studio/Live, 1951-56, Preisser).
Some exceedingly rare “live/radio” items here, most notably Mozart’s “Cosi dunque tradisci” (1956), Gluck’s “Presentimo orrendo” (1956) and “Wotan’s Farewell” (1954, superior to Melodram’s transfer). Incidentally, there is some controversy about the years of recording of all three pieces. According to the monumental (but by no means reliable) study of Carlo Curami and Maurizio Modugno, Mozart's arias were recorded in 1970 and Wotan's Farewell in 1963. The issue is at present unresolved. Considering the freshness and the fullness of the voice, as well as the far from stellar sound quality, I would tentatively suggest the earlier dates are more probable. Note also that the two “arias” from Gounod’s Faust come from the 1953 mono recording. This is rare, too.





Lebendige Vergangenheit III (Studio, 1951-57, Preisser).
The first 11 tracks are the most important. They constitute the complete 1954 LP (incorrectly dated “1955”) of traditional Russian songs (7 pieces) and orthodox chants (4). All of them can be found on the Nimbus box-set (see above), but that hardly makes them easier to obtain. The seven folksongs, in particular, are among Boris’ most incredible achievements. He was reportedly very fond of his rendition of “Ноченька” ("Notchenka", here lamely translated as “The Lonely Autumn Night”), and rightly so: the quiet passages defy belief.





Lebendige Vergangenheit IV (Studio, 1952-57, Preisser).
All previously released, and rather well-known, material. The value of the selection lies in the convenient extraction of famous episodes from complete recordings, namely the duets with Bjoerling and Neri as well Pimen’s narrative and Boris’ death from the celebrated 1952 studio version with Issay Dobrowen.





Verdi – Requiem – Karajan (Live, 8/1949, Salzburg).
Legendary performance released quite a few times. Obligatory for Christoff and Karajan completists.







Russian Opera Arias and Songs (Studio, 1949-52, EMI).
Unlike the selection with Italian arias, this one did enjoy a new remastering in 2007. No great improvement over the old edition from 1992.








Recordings 1949-53 (Studio/Live, 1949-52, MDV).
Mostly well-known studio material, but with some priceless “live” exceptions. The most notable are Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Prophet” (1953) and “Song of the Viking Guest” (1951).




Italian Opera Arias (Studio, 1949-55, EMI).






Atrocious presentation but some pretty rare stuff. This is the most complete release of the outstanding 1951 radio recital in Baden-Baden with Ernest Bour. Sadly, it is not quite complete. The “Song of the Viking Guest” is missing, but you can find it on the MDV CD with various recordings from 1949-53 (see above). “Wotan’s Farewell” has a disfiguring pause during one of the orchestral interludes; this is fixed in the Preisser edition (see above).                                                                              





          
Brahms – Ein deutsches Requiem – Walter (Radio, 1952, in Italian).
Virtually unobtainable rarity, alas. Judging by this, worth hearing.



Appalling presentation and inferior transfers cannot obscure the priceless nature of this disc. Contains at least six tracks not available anywhere else on CD (three selections from an apparently complete live recording of Nabucco and three arias from the Carnegie Hall recital in 1980). Five of the other six are also great rarities. The only exception is Silva’s cavatina and cabaletta which is taken from the fairly easy to obtain 1968 radio recording.  



                   
Boris Christoff: Profundo (Live, 1953-74, Operadepot)
Very attractive selection of extremely rare stuff. By no means is it “the most comprehensive glimpse of Christoff's artistry available today”, as Mr Whitfield boldly claims on his site, but quite a treasure for Christoff buffs all the same.




Hideous presentation from EMI, but tremendous performances by Boris. You can find all five discs in The Mighty Boris box-set (see below). Note that the last disc contains only six Russian folksongs. For some inscrutable reason, “The Song of the Twelve Robbers” was omitted. The complete “set” can be found on Preisser (IV) and Nimbus (see above).










This is – dare I say it! – Boris’ finest studio legacy. EMI’s presentation lives up to the unique character of the performances. For the first and last time I saw a booklet with lyrics in the original Russian. Unfortunately, Boris’ own liner notes are omitted. One can never have everything. The Andromeda re-issue is identical sound-wise, but it lacks completely the fine documentation. Prospective buyers are advised to spend more time and money on the original edition. It’s worth everything you care to invest in it. Alternatively, you can find all three discs in The Mighty Boris box-set (see below), but you have to search for the lyrics online.








Mussorgsky – Songs (Studio, 1955-57, EMI, 1 CD).
Excellent selection from the complete recording. Newly remastered (2003): the amount of detail is increased, but the some of the original depth has been lost. The booklet includes all lyrics, albeit in the hideous transliterated form. 





                                                                                                             

Verdi – Requiem – Serafin (Studio, 1959).
Rare recording recently re-issued by Testament in typically fine sound and at even more typically high price. A kind YT uploader has given us the opportunity to hear Boris’ most important contributions to this recording. Click & Click.




Very nice introduction for neophytes. Collectors would love to have the twofer because it contains three of the four great arias recorded in 1963 for the LP Tsars and Kings. See CD 2, tracks 4-6. So far as I know, this is their only release on CD! The year of remastering is given as “1988”, but if there was a release on CD at the time, it must be impossible to find now.






Boris Christoff (Live, 1962-69, Bongiovanni)
Priceless disc. I know of no other edition of these recordings. Dargomizhsky, Schubert and 2/3 of Mozart Boris never recorded commercially. I’m not even sure if other “live” recordings exist. There is one strange defect in the end of the last of the “Song and Dances of Death”. I don’t know how to explain it, but suddenly it is a very different voice we hear: either this was edited from another recording by another bass or, more likely, Boris actually lost his voice. Poignant reminder that even the most godlike among the artists are, after all, quite human. Note that the two titles of Borodine's song do not match. The transliterated version is "Для берегов отчизны дальной", the Italian translation is "Спящая Княжна". It is the latter that can be heard on the CD.




Russian Melodies (Studio, 1975/76, DG)
This unjustly forgotten LP with Russian romances was released for the first time on CD just a few years ago. Now it is safely out-of-print and unlikely to be brought back into the catalogues. Pity.







Bulgarian and Russian Orthodox Chants (Studio, 10/1976, Balkanton).




Recital (Live, 23/12/1976, Lugano).
Pretty impressive recital for a man of 62. 





Gretchaninov – Liturgia Domestica (Studio, 1978, Balkanton).




Opera Recital (Studio, 1979, Balkanton)
Only Banco’s “Come dal ciel precipita” and the last five arias are new recordings. Except for Gluck’s “O Diana dea spietata” (1951), Boris had never recorded in studio any of them, even though Banco’s aria was a concert favourite of his for many years and he sung Pizarro and Seneca to great acclaim. The piece of Rameau is new to his discography. The voice is no longer what it used to be, of course, but there is more than enough left. All in all, a pretty good recital for a man of 65. The other five arias are re-issues of old material, for the most part in embarrassingly inferior sound. The “booklet” contains the usual (lame) disclaimer that the recordings were not subjected to any additional treatment in order to retain their authenticity.




Gretchaninov – Songs (Studio, 1980, Balkanton).
The last recording.




Devil, Monk and Czar (10 CDs, Membran)
Fascinating, if rather promiscuous, selection of previously released material. Includes many excerpts from complete recordings of operas, some of them taken from legendary live/radio performances. Good introduction for newcomers to the art of Boris Christoff, relatively useless for collectors.






















The Mighty Boris (11 CDs, EMI, 2013)
Comprehensive selection of previously released but mostly out-of-print material, including the three discs with Mussorgsky’s complete songs (CD 1-3) and the five with Russian songs by Glinka, Borodine, Cui, Balakirev, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov (CD 4-8). CD 9 and CD 10 are exact copies of the ones with Russian and Italian arias, respectively, listed above. CD 11, except for Gluck's "O tu la cosa mia più cara" (3) and Attila's "Mentre gonfiarsi l'anima" (4, both also on The Very Best disc), is an interesting mixture of excerpts from complete studio recordings (some of them pretty rare). These include the rondo and serenade of Mephistopheles from Gounod's Faust (1-2, 1958), two great duets with Gobbi from Don Carlo (6, 1954) and Simon Boccanegra (5, 1957), the final aria and death of Ivan Susanin (7-9, 1957), the duet of Galitsky and Yaroslavna from Act I of Prince Igor (10, 1966), and finally three excerpts from the 1962 recording of Boris Godunov with Andre Cluytens (11-13, Boris' Prayer, the Clock Scene and the Farewell and Death of Boris). 






VIDEO RECORDINGS

Verdi: La Forza del Destino, Live, 15/3/1958, San Carlo, Naples (VAI Classics).
This is arguably the finest Forza ever recorded, video or audio, mono or stereo, analogue or digital, whatever. The grainy picture and the constrained sound are meagre price to pay for Tebaldi, Corelli, Bastianini, Dominguez, Christoff and Capecchi in top form. What a sextet! The singing is incredible! So, for the most part, is the acting. The old-fashioned sets and costumes, not to mention Boris’ notorious wig and fake beard, may look quaint, but I, for one, prefer them to the sick perversity of modernist directors bent on “reinterpreting the old masterpieces”.



The Art of Singing: Golden Voices of the Century (NVC Arts).
Contains the Death Scene from Boris Godunov, staged, sung, acted and broadcast live on 10th December 1956, nicely introduced by no other but José Ferrer himself. The documentary on the whole, much like its companion The Art of Piano, is a hotchpotch of greatness and mediocrity, with irrelevant commentary, questionable editing and ridiculous omissions/inclusions thrown in for good measure. Anyway, Boris alone is worth the price of admission.





Great Opera Singers (IMG Artists).
Contains another live broadcast of Boris Godunov’s terrifying Death Scene, this time from 19th October 1958.






Lugano Recital (Live, 23/12/1976)
This is the same concert as issued on CD by Aura (see above). However, the DVD omits one of Mussorgsky’s songs (“The wild winds blow”), the camera work is atrocious and the director is a jerk. But it is definitely worth having! At the age of 62, Boris was past his prime, of course, but more than enough was left to guarantee a unique experience. You can see and hear for yourselves on YT where the arias from RossiniMozart and Verdi are available. The DVD also contains an interesting interview with Giorgio Gualerzi (in Italian with English subtitles) in which Boris speaks about important moments in his life and his artistic credo.





Appendix:
UNRELEASED RARITIES
(Audio & Video)





Playback, but look at these eyes!




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