Boris Godunov


Writers: Modest Mussorgsky


Show Information

Based on the Play/Book/Film
Boris Godunov by Pushkin
Number of Acts
First Produced
Period, Multiple Settings
Time & Place
17th century, Russia
Cast Size
Orchestra Size
Ideal for
Mostly Male Cast, Professional Opera
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes mature adult, elderly, late teen, young adult, adult, child, early teen characters


Mussorgsky’s vast opera Boris Godunov is centered on the historical figure who was tsar of Russia in the late 16th century, the mysteries surrounding his rise to the throne, and the uprising of the man who claimed to be Dmitry, the true heir to the throne.

Responsible for ordering the assassination of the family of the previous tsar, Boris Godunov is next in-line for the throne. For a decade he reigns over Russia, troubled by the knowledge of his unjust ascension, but believing that he has done the right thing for his family. When a young monk in a monastery learns of Boris’s crime, he decides to try and take the throne for himself. He claims to be Dmitry, the young heir to the throne that was murdered all those years ago, and draws armies from all the surrounding lands to help him return to the throne that was rightfully his.

Meanwhile, Boris’s guilt is plaguing him more and more every day, and he has started to be haunted by the child that he murdered. The news that this child has now risen from the grave to claim his birthright, and that he has armies supporting his campaign, is just too much for Boris. A visit from the elderly monk who knows the truth about Boris’s crime seals his fate: Boris suffers a fatal heart attack, leaving the throne to the imposter.

Alongside Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov is one of the world’s favorite Russian operas.

Lead Characters

Boris Godunov guide sections