Poles boycott Boris in apparent Russian protest

Poles boycott Boris in apparent Russian protest


norman lebrecht

March 01, 2022

Warsaw National Opera has scrapped its April production of Boris Godunov, apparently because it is a work of Russian nationalism.

Here’s the statement:

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Spectators,
We are the National Opera, the Polish National Opera.
Our headquarters is located in Warsaw, a city where the historical memory of the first bombs falling during World War II is still alive.
We are experiencing a war in Ukraine, as well as the suffering of the Ukrainian people. We express our admiration for the heroism of the Ukrainians fighting to defend their Homeland.
Therefore, we cancel the premiere of “Borysa Godunowa” on April 8, as well as all other performances – 10, 12 and 14 April.
We believe that we will be able to return to the realization of this work in peace.
Waldemar Dabrowski
Grand Theater Director – National Opera


  • Bloom says:

    I don t know which is more catastrophic. Putin s bombing of opera houses or this purge. Very sad times for Europe.

    • guest says:

      Let me enlighten you. Neither. Catastrophic is Putin’s killing civilians indiscriminately, children, women, men. You seem to forget the thousands of deaths.

      Extraordinary with what equanimity keyboard crusaders put some ideological nonsense ahead even of human lives. Let me enlighten you about what you call “purge.” You seem to forget that the East of the Europe is at war, and that sanctions and boycotting are the only weapons that countries that do not use bombs have left to fight. The boycott is temporary, the dead in the Ukraine are forever dead, yet your disgruntled and dissatisfied self grumbles more about a cancelled / postponed(*) opera performance than about dead children. I guess you have your “priorities”. Yuck.

      (*) If you read the article, it concludes with “We believe that we will be able to return to the realization of this work in peace.” No purge forever. The dead however won’t be able to return to life.

  • Gustavo says:

    Oh dear, not good.

    Too much nationalism on both sides of the equation.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Very, very stupid unless the performers and conductor were Russian which I could understand. They refer to WWII and conveniently forget that 20 million Russians on our side were killed in the Great Patriotic War so that we don’t now speak German. They should not compare todays lunacy to the past.

    • IC225 says:

      Might be advisable to read some history (and check your statistics, with particular emphasis on the difference between “Russian” and “Soviet”) before telling the Poles what to think about the current situation. Russia began WW2 by invading and partitioning Poland, in league with their (then) Nazi allies, and later enforced a brutal communist dictatorship on the country for 45 years after the war ended. I don’t think many Russians were on “our” side in WW2 if you happen to be Polish.

    • Alexy says:

      Agree With your opinion: cancelling artists like Tchaikovsky is stupid and have nothing to do with this war of Putin. But with all due respect for the Russians deads and heroes of the Great Patriot War, you should also mention that Russia started the war in 1939 at the side of the Nazi’s invading brutally Poland and Finland without warning and reasons ( territorial greed, sounds familiar? )

    • alexy says:

      Boris Godunov is of course of Moussorgsky (red face)

  • guest says:

    I bet “Tony”, “SVM”, and “Mr. Bentley” will make an appearance with their standard “anti-Russia hysteria” and cancel culture comment. Granted, this isn’t Warsaw Opera’s brightest idea. At least they conclude “We believe that we will be able to return to the realization of this work in peace.”

  • Peter says:

    We are surrounded by cowards and bug men.

  • Herbie G says:

    Understandable but sad. Boris Godunov is arguably the greatest Russian opera but it’s ‘national’ only insofar as there are echos of Russian-sounding scales, rhythms and folk music. It’s by no means nationalistic or jingoistic. It deals with the guilt-ridden demise of a murderous Russian megalomaniac and so should be exactly appropriate in the circumstances (although the story might not be entirely authentic).

    In fact, Godunov was far greater than Putin because at least he had a heart and soul, with a sense of guilt at what he had done.

    Let’s punish Putin – a soulless, heartless and uncultured squirt – rather than Mussorgsky’s work of genius. And for a further salutary tale, how about a production of another brilliant work – The Golden Cockerel by Rimsky-Korsakov!

    • John Borstlap says:

      Indeed, banning Boris is a mistake. It shows how wrong tyranny is and how much the Russian people sfufer from it.

    • The View from America says:

      Definitely a thumbs-up on presenting Le Coq d’or in place of Boris.

  • mirga says:

    “How heroic from the opera house.
    That is a great and strong gesture.”

    It’s just stupid and crazy.

  • Frank Flambeau says:

    Poland will be invaded soon after the Ukraine.

  • Maybe they could just perform the Polish Act and do a chorus or 2 from Nabucco

  • PShi says:

    …Why? Boris Godunov can be the best prophetic opera for the current situation: the Tsar goes crazy, people riots around Kremlin, and the yuródivïy sings of woe to Russia…

  • Thomas M. says:

    Sorry, but this is completely ridiculous. A work composed all that long ago, how does it affect the situation and fascism in Russia now? Laughable.

  • Chorus bass says:

    I think people are forgetting one thing here – the performers themselves. With all the horrors going on in the world at the moment, the simple act of playing/singing music to entertain people can feel uncomfortable at best. I can imagine that singing in the Russian language during this war may well be upsetting for some. Should we be banning Russian music? Of course not. But I don’t think it is unreasonable for singers to object to singing nationalistic Russian Choruses onstage (even if the plot of the opera as a whole seems apt). This might not be ‘cancel culture’ or a political statement, simply a way of supporting employees and artists by not putting them in difficult positions. I don’t know, of course, I just know that I would not want to stand on stage and sing the coronation scene of this opera right now.

    • Fiery angel says:

      Where exactly do you find the “nationalistic Russian choruses” in “Boris Godunov”? Can you name at least one?
      The only thing is that Poles don’t come off very well in this opera, at least in the second version, which is rarely done nowadays.

  • Evans says:

    No-one in all this seems to realise or, perhaps acknowledge that, when someone is killed, they are killed forever.