|The version of "Khovantxina" of Modest Mussorgsky orchestrated by Shostakovich in 1959 is much longer than the classical one of Rimsky Korsakov of 1860. Shostakovich did not want to cut nothing of the original and he added to it an orchestration magnificent, full of delicacy and of emotion. Following the manifesto of the "Group of the Five", to whom Mussorgsky belonged, Shostakovich rebels against the ordinariness and the triviality, giving a value typical of pure, absolute music, untied of the story plot, on the independent part of the text.|
On the other hand, following the postulates of the same manifesto, Mussorgsky had freed the lyrical music from the traditional molds, to subordinate it rigorously to the dramatic situation and the demands of the text. "The vocal music in the theater has to be in perfect agreement with the sung text", like the Gregorian one in the Catholic churches.
The result can not be better: a choral fresco of the Russian people, of the Russian -mystical, war, imperial soul, worried collectively by the autocracy, marked by the immovable Asian essences- that it expresses its fears, its impotence in the face of the cruelty of the history and at the same time the permanence of the rock-rose origin with its eternal return.
Thus, the scenes of masses, magnificently made for the direction of Stein Winge, cause some of the popular chores more beautiful of the history of the opera: the acclamation as "father" and "white swan" of the autocrat or the ritual of the suicide of the schismatics.
"Khovantxina" is essentially a choral opera. The scenario of the Lyceum transforms into a metaphor of Russia: anything of individual characters who plot a story let's tell it at the Italian mode, but a History that passes above them, immutable and cruel, and swallows them; the force of which the music of Shostakovich portrays.