Modest Mussorgsky’s opera, Khovanshchina, is set in a dark and politically unstable period of Russian history. The five-act “national music drama,” composed in Saint Petersburg between 1872 and 1880, tells the story of the 1682 rebellion, led by Prince Ivan Khovansky and the Old Believers, against Peter the Great. Additionally, the plot involves the disloyalty of the corrupt Prince Vasily Golitsyn. At its center, the conflict is between the continuation of a traditionally isolated Russia and the outward-looking Western reforms which Peter the Great hoped to implement. Ultimately, Peter puts down the rebellion. Khovansky is murdered, Golitsyn is put into exile, and the Old Believers commit mass suicide by immolation.
The haunting aria, Sily patainyye (“Mysterious Powers”), comes from the opera’s second act. Prince Golitsyn hires Marfa to tell his fortune in secret. After summoning “occult forces, powerful forces, souls that have departed for a mysterious world,” she reveals that the Prince will face exile and live in poverty and profound grief and suffering. “In that far land, in bitter tears, you will learn the ultimate truth of the earth.”
This recording features the American mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick, accompanied by Charles Rosekrans and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra:
- Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina, Sily patainyye, Dolora Zajick, Charles Rosekrans, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Amazon
Featured Image: Red Square as depicted in a set design by Apollinariy Vasnetsov for the Russian Private Opera’s Moscow production of “Khovanshchina” in 1897