Waste in Russia

Nothing can be seen except a vile of dust and waste. It seems to be an inevitable result of those tons of waste that have crashed on the floor an instant before. Now the arising cloud of dust is drifting slowly towards the wide dark room where a lot of surprised people exchange disbelieving glances, both with fascination and horror. Well-respected citizens, for sure having spent plenty of their hard-earned money to sit in the first row are shocked to witness how particles of dust go down on their favorite evening dress.

In the spotlight a gathered crowd – wrapped in warm clothes, it has to be cold – is splitted by soldiers, from somewhere music starts. The people are nervous, afraid – fearful glances are following the officer in chief who is interrogating the crowd in a quite rude manner. The guards begin to check ID, the people shrink back. Eventually the troops take position behind the gathered crowd, a drunken beggar with a bottle of Vodka who wants to pass the soldier’s position is roughly pushed away. Cursing he staggers away.

It is the opening night at Berlin’s Komische Oper of the new production "Boris Godunow", the story about the muderer of the late tsar’s son whose grap for power is finally prevented by the bad conscience of his deed. The setting of Pushkin’s piece – which was later on chosen and adopted for the opera by Modest Mussorgsky – is transferred from the original scene, the Russia at the beginning of the 16th century, to the Russia of today. The perception of Russia’s problems are combined with the plot of an opera, an attempt to demonstrate that opera doesn’t have to be necessarily old and naive but can also be modern and present-day.

The pictures the audience are presented are impressive: The stage is covered with waste, primitive western techno-music everywhere, the people of Russia are dressed in rags, man and woman embittered, racked by poverty and a lack of perspective, filthy children are playing war, bad-humoured troops controll the people – the future of this nation is jet-black. Via video-screen the audience is confronted with the recent Russian history of the 20th century, underlined by Mussorgsky’s most moving and gloomy score. Film documents from WWII, Yelzin standing on top of a tank and civil casualities from the chetchenian war are shown to depict the tragic progress of Russia and it’s people.

Whenever and in whatever manner Russia’s rulers enter the political stage, the common people are ever-present, their misery is never-ending. Desperate and easyly to deceive, they are at the mercy of the ruler’s intrigues, doomed to be betrayed. Their life is ruined, their destiny uncertain, their pride broken. But the Tsar’s condition is not better, his power wanes, he is staggering over the stage and has to face the duma. The burden of his guilt is becoming unbearable, he wants to explain but the people are too upset to listen.

This "national drama in music" with all its failures comes to it’s end. The tsar’s voice is heard for the last time: "Forgive me…forgive me." – Trembling the heavy body streches once again and then collapses in front of the gathered people of Russia. The last soft chords of the orchester are accompanying the parting crowd, the stage darkens and then applause of the audience. They leave with a good conscience.

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