Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How We Brought Boris Back to Life; When the Great Filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky Staged His Only Opera at Covent Garden in 1983, His Assistant Was Taking Detailed Notes THE EPIC OPERA BORIS GODUNOV RETURNS - FIRST NIGHT REVIEWED BELOW, AND, RIGHT, THE DIRECTOR'S DIARY

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How We Brought Boris Back to Life; When the Great Filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky Staged His Only Opera at Covent Garden in 1983, His Assistant Was Taking Detailed Notes THE EPIC OPERA BORIS GODUNOV RETURNS - FIRST NIGHT REVIEWED BELOW, AND, RIGHT, THE DIRECTOR'S DIARY

Article excerpt

Byline: IRINA BROWN

LATE October, 1983.

Everyone is exalted and exhausted after the final rehearsal of Boris Godunov. As assistant director, my notebook is filled with hundreds of notes.

We have just watched the production all the way through. An extraordinary cast fought their way through hope, despair and pain, bleeding sweat and tears for nearly four hours. The Royal Opera chorus crawled, scrambled and danced their way from the rotting smoke-filled wells - Andrei's rubbish-dumps of history - onto the golden ramp for the final scene of the " revolution", wailing, howling, bawling and laughing in near-perfect Russian. The stage is covered in hundreds of dead bodies and the haunting sounds of the Simpleton's lament are dying out as the snow falls.

Tarkovsky turns to me: "I've got it! That's where the Angel of Death should appear. After the lament. He will appear and open his arms to receive the soul of Russia. In the last few seconds.

Forgiveness."

Suddenly the whole is complete.

On the first night we shall finally see the Angel. Just a glimpse. A glimpse of hope.

Twenty years on we are recreating the historic event that was Andrei Tarkovsky's Boris Godunov. (I had been invited to assist him then because I was obsessed by theatre, I spoke Russian and Tarkovsky's movies were my religion of choice.) A dancer comes up to me and asks, "Has it really been 20 years?" I know it has - every bone in my body aches from rushing up and down the rehearsal room ramparts.

Twenty years on. My well-worn vocal scores arrive from the archives filled with copious notes from the first production meeting, from our rehearsals, from my later conversations with Tarkovsky, who died in 1986. Can one "remake" an original piece of theatre as one can a ballet, by following instructions on the page? How do we recapture the spirit of the original and the integrity of Tarkovsky's vision, the only opera he ever staged?

There are many challenges. The single set, dominated by a huge central arch, is deceptively simple. It allows the production to be effortlessly fluid, swift, an everchanging platform for an epic narrative. …

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