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A first release on CD of Mussorgsky’s epic tragedy recorded by the Belgrade National Opera.

With this and six companion issues, Eloquence makes available for the first time on CD the seven complete Russian operas recorded in 1955 by Decca with the company of the Belgrade Opera.

Fresh from a successful tour of ‘Boris Godunov’ in Switzerland the previous year, the Belgrade Opera, in 1955, was keen to make an impression on an international public. At the same time, the Decca company perceived a cost-effective but artistically assured opportunity to expand both its small but rapidly growing stereo catalogue (launched the previous year with Ansermet and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande) and its opera discography with classics of the Russian opera repertoire which it had previously not been possible to record in the original language.

In the event, the stereo versions were held back for the US market and only released in Europe in the 1960s, by which time the Belgrade Opera had acquired an international reputation for excellence thanks both to the mono issues and to its extensive touring schedule which took in all the major European operatic centres. The Boris on their recording was Miroslav Čangalović who became known as a latterday Chaliapin in the part, among the most renowned exponents of his generation. In a ‘house’ version of the opera, incorporating portions of the ‘Polish’ third act in Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestration, Čangalović was joined by other stalwarts of the company such as Melanija Bugarinović who also won acclaim as Erda at Bayreuth around this time and Žarko Cvejić as a magnificently sonorous and sinister Varlaam.

The booklet for this newly remastered release prints both a synopsis and an essay giving full historical context to the Belgrade opera recordings.

‘The outstanding principal is Miro Brajnik, possessor of a fine, ringing tenor. His is the most compelling Dmitri on records.’ High Fidelity

‘The minor characters are well differentiated and well sung. The chorus is splendid and extremely well recorded. The various planes of sound are brilliantly engineered, creating the illusion of distant pilgrims, passing monks, the immediacy of a big crowd and especially the great bells’ clangour. The Revolutionary scene is magnificent choral recording and here Baranović is splendidly vigorous.’

Boris Godunov

Boris Godunov, Miroslav Čangalović
Feodor Borisovich, Sofija Janković
Xenia Borisovna, Zlata Sesardić
Xenia’s Nurse, Milica Miladinović
Prince Vasily Ivanovich Shuisky, Stepan Andrashevich
Andrej Shchelkalov, Dušan Popović
Pimen, Branko Pivnički
Pretender, Miroslav Brajnik
Marina Mnishek, Melanija Bugarinović
Varlaam, Žarko Cvejić
Missail, Stepan Vukicević
Hostess of the inn, Biserka Kalučić
Simpleton, Nikola Jančić
Nikitich, Ilija Gligorijević
Khrushchov, Zhika Milosavliević
Lewicki, Dragomir Ninković
Czernikowski, Ivan Murgaški

Chorus and Orchestra of the National Theatre, Belgrade
Krešimir Baranović

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