Like Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, the opera is based on the life of the 16th-century Russian czar Boris I. Mattheson was one of Hamburg's leading musicians—and a mentor to Handel—when the work was completed, but it was not performed because of internal politics at the Hamburg Opera and because it was thought to be too difficult.
During World War II, the score of the opera was moved from the Hamburg State Library to a castle outside Dresden; at the end of the war, when Russian soldiers confiscated the library's collection, it was taken to Erwan, Armenia, by a scholar of Mattheson's music. It did not return to Hamburg until 1998. A concert performance of the work, its world premiere, was given in Hamburg in January.
At BEMF, the opera is directed by Paul O'Dette and Stephen Stubbs, co-directors of the festival; Lucy Graham and Nils Niemann are the stage co-directors. The cast includes the young Russian bass Vadim Kravet as Boris, Ellen Hargis as Irinia, and Nell Snaidas as Olga.
Boris Goudenow runs at the Cutler Majestic Theatre at Emerson College through June 19; it will be performed at the Tanglewood Festival on June 24 and 25 and in Moscow and St. Petersburg in September.
BEMF produces a concert series as well as a biennial festival and exhibition, which this year runs through June 19.