Boris Godunov Preview – Semi-Staged Performances with the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus

Michael Tilson Thomas conducts Boris Godunov at San Francisco Symphony.
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Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) leads the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and Chorus, joined by the Pacific Boychoir and an internationally-renowned cast, in semi-staged performances of the epic political drama Boris Godunov featuring Mussorgsky’s original orchestration, June 1415 & 17 at Davies Symphony Hall. Inspired by Pushkin’s Shakespearean tragedy, the work follows the rise and fall of the 16th-century Tsar Boris Godunov in a story underpinned by ambition, power, and betrayal. The production, conceived by MTT and directed by James Darrah, features original lighting design by Pablo Santiago, projection design by Adam Larsen, and scenic & costume design by Emily Anne MacDonald & Cameron Jaye Mock . This same world-class creative team has previously collaborated with MTT and the SFS on critically-acclaimed productions including Peer Gynt in 2013, Peter Grimes in 2014, and, most recently, On the Town in 2016.

of Michael Tilson Thomas, Photo: Spencer Lowell

For more than twenty seasons, Michael Tilson Thomas and the SFS have been reinventing the way audiences experience classical music by creating original staging for works of the orchestral and operatic repertory in a symphonic setting. From The Flying Dutchman, Peter Grimes, and Peer Gynt, to West Side Story and On The Town, MTT continues to explore new ways to provide context for core masterworks with visionary staging and design elements. “My goal with each semi-staged production, whether opera, musical theater, or symphonic work, is to use lighting, costumes, projections, and stage direction to further illuminate the music and story so that the audience comes away with a deeper and more immersive concert experience,” explains Michael Tilson Thomas. “I’m looking forward to this production which will showcase the incredible artistry of the San Francisco Symphony, our esteemed soloists, and our remarkable design team and stage crew.”

James Darrah, Photo:Simona Kessler


The accomplished Eastern European cast assembled for Boris Godunov includes bass Stanislav Trofimov (Boris Godunov), tenor Sergei Skorokhodov (Grigory), tenor Yevgeny Akimov (Prince Shuisky), bass Vyacheslav Pochapsky (Varlaam), bass Maxim Kuzmin-Karavaev (Pimen), baritone Aleksey Bogdanov (Andrei Shchelkalov), and tenor Stanislav Mostovoy (Holy Fool), in addition to soprano Jennifer Zetlan (Xenia), mezzo-soprano Eliza Bonet (Fyodor), mezzo-soprano Silvie Jensen (Nurse), mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook (Innkeeper), tenor Ben Jones (Missail), tenor Elliott Encarnación (Boyar in Attendance), baritone Matthew Peterson (Chernikovsky), baritone Jonathan Thomas (Lavitsky), baritone Samuel Faustine (Boyar Khrushchov), bass-baritone Philip Skinner (Nikitich), and bass Chung-Wai Soong (Mityukha). Other cast members include choreographer and dancer Christopher Bordenave, and Judson Emery, Charissa Kroeger, Austyn Rich, Sasha Rivero, and Jobel Medina who appear in various roles as actors and dancers. The performances also feature the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, directed by Ragnar Bohlin, and the Pacific Boychoir, directed by Andrew Brown.

Stanislav Trofimov as Boris Godunov in Mariinsky Theatre’s 2017 production.
Courtesy Mariinsky Theatre

From June 1 through June 17, there will be an informative lobby display on the First Tier of Davies Symphony Hall titled Times of Trouble: The Intersection of Music and Politics. The exhibit explores the ways in which composers like Mussorgsky, Shostakovich, and Messiaen used music to express political ideas and provide social commentary in times of trouble throughout history.

Preliminary rendering of Xenia’s costume design, as created by Mac Moc Design.
Preliminary rendering of Boris Godunov’s costume design, as created by Mac Moc Design

About the San Francisco Symphony

The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) is widely considered to be among the most artistically adventurous and innovative arts institutions in the U.S. Under the artistic direction of Michael Tilson Thomas since 1995, the Orchestra is a leading presence among American orchestras at home and around the world, celebrated for its artistic excellence, creative performance concepts, active touring, award-winning recordings, and standard-setting education programs. The SFS presents more than 220 concerts and presentations annually for an audience of nearly 450,000 in its home of Davies Symphony Hall and through its active national and international touring. A cornerstone of the organization’s mission, the San Francisco Symphony’s education programs are the most extensive offered by any American orchestra today, providing free comprehensive music education to every first- through fifth-grade student in the San Francisco public schools, and serving more than 100,000 children, students, educators, and families annually. The SFS has won such recording awards as France’s Grand Prix du Disque and Britain’s Gramophone Award, as well as 15 Grammy Awards. In 2004, the SFS launched the multimedia Keeping Score on PBS-TV and the web. In 2014, the SFS inaugurated SoundBox, a new experimental performance venue and music series located backstage at Davies Symphony Hall. SFS radio broadcasts, the first in the nation to feature symphonic music when they began in 1926, today carry the Orchestra’s concerts across the country.


About the San Francisco Symphony Chorus
One of America’s most distinguished choruses, the 152-member San Francisco Symphony Chorus led by Director Ragnar Bohlin celebrated its 40th anniversary in the 2013–14 season. Known for its precision, power, and versatility, the SFS Chorus performs more than 26 concerts each season and is comprised of 32 professional and 120 volunteer members. Recordings featuring the SFS Chorus have won a total of eight Grammy awards, including three for Best Choral Performance. They were featured on the SFS Media’s recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with MTT and the SFS, which won three 2010 Grammys, including the award for Best Choral Performance. Most recently, the SFS Chorus can be heard on a recording of Beethoven’s Mass in C with Michael Tilson Thomas and the SFS, released on the Orchestra’s in-house label SFS Media in November 2015. Members of the chorus can also be heard on the SF Symphony’s complete concert recording of Bernstein’s score for West Side Story, released in June 2014 and nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and winner of the 2015 ICMA Award for Best Album.

Preliminary rendering of Boris Godunov’s scenic design, as created by Mac Moc Design

Travel Advisory

Those traveling to San Francisco for Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony’s performances of Boris Godunov have an opportunity to experience another operatic masterpiece the same week at the San Francisco Opera—Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. Opening performances of the Ring cycle take place on June 12, 13, 15, and 17, ideally surrounding the opening of Boris Godunov at Davies Symphony Hall on Thursday, June 14.

Calendar editors, please note:


All concerts take place at Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco.


Tickets are available at, by phone at 415-864-6000, and at the Davies Symphony Hall Box Office, on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street in San Francisco.


Pre-Order Food and Drinks: Concertgoers may pre-order drinks and snacks here by 11am the day of a performance to arrange to have them ready at Davies Symphony Hall either before the concert or at intermission.



Pre-Concert Talk:
Alexandra D. Amati will give an “Inside Music” talk from the stage one hour prior to each concert. Free to all concert ticket holders; doors open 15 minutes before.

Tickets: $35–159

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