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Mussorgsky in St. Petersburg

The series about historical places of opera art & culture. Get to know exciting excursion and travel ideas for opera lovers. This time: Mussorgsky in St. Petersburg.


All Destinations on google maps with links to detailed Blogposts:






Mussorgski in St. Petersburg

Modest Mussorgski

Mussorgsky spent most of his artistically productive years in St. Petersburg. He was born in 1839 400 km south of St. Petersburg. He arrived there at the age of 13 to begin his education at a cadet school, according to family tradition, with a later career as a civil servant.

However, he left this path at the age of 19 to devote himself to music, but kept working in civil service positions to make a living. Mussorgsky lived on and off in residential cooperatives, at times in the commune of the “Mighty Handful” (with Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov). His alcohol consumption and lack of formal musical training prevented a larger oeuvre, but his compositions of “Pictures at an Exhibition”, “Boris Godunov” and “Night on the Bald Mountain” achieved world renown (listen below to a excursus on his opera “Boris Godunov”).




Destination Mariinsky Theater

The Mariinsky Theater was built in 1860 and is together with the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow one of Russia’s two musical flagships for ballet, classical music and opera. The theater was the site of the 1874 premiere of Mussorgsky’s most important work. The conservative management of the Mariinsky Theater twice refused the premiere of “Boris Godunov.” On the third attempt it worked and it became the greatest triumph of his life with 20 sold-out and acclaimed performances.

It is worth taking a tour of the beautiful Mariinsky Theater.

Mariinsky Theater:

St. Petersburg Modest Mussorgsky Travel Reisen Culture Tourism (1)



Destination “Music in Russian palaces”

Russian Music Seasons presents concerts of classical and jazz music in magnificent historical palaces and non-standard rooms, lectures, theater excursions and creative meetings in St. Petersburg.



Destination Cemetery Tichwin

Mussorgsky literally drank himself to death. He died in a St. Petersburg hospital at the age of 42. His body is buried in the spectacular Tikhvin Cemetery of the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in St. Petersburg.

Mussorgsky’s grave:

Grab Tomb Tikhvin Cemetery St. Petersburg Modest Mussorgsky Travel Reisen Culture Tourism (1)



Musical background: Shalyapin in the mad scene from “Boris Godunov”

With “Boris Godunov” Mussorgsky wrote a unique opera, a monolith of opera history. The most Russian of all operas inspires with great music and fascinating scenes and became the Russian national opera. Many of his musical ideas became the inspiration of a new generation of artists decades later.

Russian bass Fyodor Shalyapin was the most famous and renowned bass of the first half of the 20th century. Boris Godunov was his signature role, and his embodiment of the role in the 1908 production was instrumental in helping this opera achieve an international breakthrough.

The mad scene from Boris Godunov is one of the greatest mad scenes in opera literature. It is also called the Clock Scene because the chimes in Godunov’s room begin to move on the hour, and he believes he recognizes the dead ghost of Dmitri in them. We watch the shocking decline of the king, who at times can only stammer. It is no longer one of Verdi’s or Donizetti’s mad scenes with coloratura and leaps of tone but the declamation becomes spoken theater. Mussorgsky intensifies the effect by depicting Godunov’s unstable state with repeated tritones.

Uk tyazhelo (Ah, I suffocate)  – Shalyapin



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