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Khovanskygate: A National Enquiry

(Musorgsky: Khovanshchina)

A New English Version of Musorgsky's Opera

Written by Max Hoehn | Directed by Graham Vick

Birmingham Opera Company & City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra | 2014

Winner of Best New Production at the International Opera Awards 2015

"The past in the present - that is my task."

Modest Musorgsky


This great, sprawling opera is about a country facing an existential crisis. At its heart is the power struggle between the forces of modern European values and the religious far-right. Graham Vick's production required a new English translation that communicated these conflicting ideologies clearly to an audience with no prior knowledge of the piece's historical context. The language drew heavily on contemporary electoral politics while also preserving the more poetic Russian used by the disturbed Old Believer, Marfa. Given what's happened to British and American democracy since the 2014 premiere of this production, the piece feels more resonant than ever.

'In the pay of politicians

Gossip helped to fill the prisons

Built a network of informers

Gossip soon increased the tortures.

Leaking lies to all the papers

Scandal-loving commentators.

Publishing denunciations.

Wrecking public reputations!'


(l-r) Joseph Guyton, Eric Greene in Khov

Like two candles burning bright

We shall glow with a holy light.

Bathing in the flames of God

We shall free our souls from the chains of life.

MARFA, Act 3

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