New stage version: Yury Alexandrov (2000)
Libretto by the composer
Orchestrated: Dmitry Shostakovich
Stage Director - Leonid Baratov
Set Designer - Fedor Fedorovsky
Khovanshchina (Hovanscina, sometimes rendered The Khovansky Affair) is an opera (subtitled a ’national music drama’) in five acts by Modest Mussorgsky. The work was written between 1872 and 1880 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The composer wrote the libretto based on historical sources.
Moscow. Red Square. Shaklovity, a Boyar, dictates an anonymous letter to the Tsar, warning of a rebellion by Khovansky (captain of the Streltsy Guards) and the Old Believers. Ivan Khovansky arrives and promises a crowd of people to defend the Tsar against treachery. Andrey Khovansky, Ivan’s son, chases in Emma, a German girl, but is fended off by Marfa, an Old Believer. Andrey threatens to kill Emma, but is prevented by the arrival of Dosifey, the leader of the Old Believers. Marfa leaves with Emma.
Summer Study of Prince Vasily Golitsyn. Marfa tells the prince’s fortune, saying that he will fall from power. After she leaves, Golitsyn orders his servants to kill her. Ivan Khovansky appears to complain that Golitsyn has interfered with the Boyars, but Dosifey enters and persuades the two to work together. Marfa, who has been saved by the Tsar’s guards, reappears, followed by Shaklovity, who tells the group that the Tsar has been warned of their opposition to him.
The Streltsi Quarter, South of the Moscow River.Marfa is overheard singing of her love by Susanna, a fellow Old Believer. Marfa admits to Dosifey that she loves Andrey Khovansky.
A Richly Furnished Chamber in Ivan Khovansky’s Mansion. Khovansky is warned by a servant of Golitsyn that he is in danger, but Khovansky ignores the warning and watches his servant girls dance. Shaklovity enters and murders Khovansky.
Moscow. The Red Square before the Cathedral of Vasiliy the Blessed. Golitsyn is led into exile. Dosifey mourns the conspirators’ downfall. Marfa offers sanctuary to Andrey with the Old Believers. The Streltsy are led to their execution. Peter, through an agent, intervenes to pardon them (which is not in agreement with historical fact).
A Pine Forest. A Secluded Monastery. A Moonlit Night. Dosifey and his followers prepare to immolate themselves. As Dosifey, Marfa, Andrey and the Old Believers perish in the flames of a burning chapel, Peter’s soldiers arrive in a vain attempt to capture them.