La Scala had to justify bringing out “Boris Godunow”.
Bubbles of indignation are not an issue in Innsbruck: a Mussorgsky performance without any pressure to update.
Was that maybe Stalin?
The mustache would fit.
But who are the other leaders and serious men projected onto the open, blank newspapers of a troupe of business men?
Before the big brooding begins, the scene is already over.
Because, as the whole evening signals, it is not important, at least only indirectly.
The rise and fall of a tsar, all bought with blood, that already provokes enough hints, nobody has to come with the "Tagesschau" club.
A few months ago, the Milan Scala was confronted with criticism as to why it was playing Modest Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunow" at this time.
And if so, the bubbles of outrage screamed, she should kindly respond to this in her production.
That's not an issue at the Tiroler Landestheater.
Whereby Thaddeus Strassberger, director, set designer and video man in one, does not shy away from topicality, but does not allow himself to be put under pressure by it.
Before the beginning, a fictitious Soviet news program announces the death of Feodor I, baton men push the people back, and Boris' successor wears a more recent, decorative velvet uniform.
Strassberger plays here with the time levels, historical set pieces and sometimes with clichés.
Monk Pimen, chronicler of the history of the empire, lives on a pile of giant folios as if it were from a Russian fairy tale picture book.
And everything happens in front of and next to a golden architecture, a revolving cube, sometimes a Kremlin, sometimes a projection screen.
Mix of styles on stage shows Russian continuities
In this Russia, it is shown, little has changed.
Strassberger's mix of styles distils continuities.
The power of the church is unbroken.
And that of the powerful, scheming little bunch that sneak around the respective rulers anyway - maybe the current one will soon feel it.
In Innsbruck, as almost everywhere, the original version of "Boris" from 1869 is being performed.
Mussorgsky's cumbersome, advanced instrumentation, not later smoothed out by colleagues, can be experienced.
But above all the concentration of the drama on the central characters.
It is true that the people with powerful choirs play a leading role.
But the characters can emerge more clearly - here the generous, later mentally attacked Tsar Boris, on the other side schemer Schuisky and the monk Grigori, who pretends to be the - actually murdered - rightful heir to the throne Dimitri.
It is in the nature of the work that there is no lack of pathos and statuary.
Where Godunov's story is only illuminated in highlights, the psychologically well-formed arc is hardly possible.
For this to work, you need staff with charisma.
And that's what the Tiroler Landestheater has to offer.
Starting with the youthful Ivo Stanchev, who paints the title role in a sonorous dark grey, to Lukasz Zaleski as a cliché-free Schuiski, finally not nagging tenorally, to Florian Stern, who acts as Grigori as well as a vocally agile hooligan.
Joachim Seipp turns up the heat as the wandering monk Warlaam.
And Strassberger came up with something fascinating for the god fool: half clown, half marionette, a white creature sometimes tied up as if in a wedding robe,
that the people pull behind them with red cords - and later hang up on it for worship.
Dale Albright turns it into a study that is as impressive as it is enigmatic.
Don't confuse drama with phone power
For the first time, the "Boris" is lifted at the Tyrolean State Theater.
It is also thanks to conductor Oliver von Dohnányi that the roof of the State Theater did not fly off.
One hears that the power and imposing gestures of the score do not have to be synonymous with phone power.
Many details of the instrumentation stand out, the massiveness of the usually larger instrumentation is not missing in the Tyrolean Symphony Orchestra.
In general, there are very sound-conscious mini-moments that sometimes say more about the dramatic situation than the big ensemble roll.
The premiere is acknowledged by the audience with long, not effusive applause.
Which doesn't have to be a bad sign: "Boris Godunow" seeps away like nihilism.
Mussorgsky and the original poet Puschkin negotiate an endless loop here, the eternal, fateful cycle of power in a vast empire.
With no prospect of improvement, as we are just finding out.