Opera streaming at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre

Bryn Terfel in Boris Godunov
Bryn Terfel in Boris Godunov

Last year I wrote that Bryn Terfel had been honing his Flying Dutchman for years. If that is the case, then he has been gestating his Boris for equally as long, and we now reap the benefits. Everything about his performance is massive – the voice, the physical presence, the acting.

The opera itself is a strange mosaic. No wonder other Russian composers wanted to tinker with the plot and orchestration. Anthony Pappano’s Boris is the one that Mussorgsky originally intended and, for someone like me devoted to simple, linear story-lines, it takes mental gymnastics to follow what is going on.

Apart from the convincing lead, what did I like? The staging with the split levels - boyars above, peasants below - worked well and gave the Chorus plenty of opportunity for movement and, in one scene, spectacular costuming.

Lighting was subtle and inventive: the use of shadow multiplied the numbers in crowd scenes and provided even more shading to Bryn Terfel’s performance.

Minor parts were strong, with the sinister John Graham-Hall looking for all the world like Grima Wormtongue in Lord of the Rings.

One of the biggest cheers at the curtain was for the popular John Tomlinson as Varlaam, the drunken monk, who delivered a stirring version of Here’s What Happened at the Town of Kazan.