"Destroy the evil serpent, with twelve wings and snouts, that serpent bringing endless troubles to Russia! Announce to the true-believers, for their salvation!"
(Boris Godunov, Prologue, Scene One)
In the wake of Russia's "special military operation" against Ukraine, the anti-Russian sentiment in the so-called "free West" has made waves that went well beyond the cultural scene. As a prelude to what was to come next, a Tchaikovsky concert originally scheduled to take place on March 18 in Cardiff, Wales, got cancelled. This decision was followed by similar bans on concerts in Berlin, Stettin, Bydgoszcz, and other cities. To be able to perform in the West, Russian performers were expected to distance themselves from their president and his policies. This kind of brutal inquisition was unheard of even at the height of the Cold War.
That being the case, the very fact that the new opera season at Milan's La Scala opened, on December 7, 2022, with a Russian-language production of Boris Godunov, Modest Mussorgsky's brilliant masterpiece, might come across as an inexplicable anomaly. What was seemingly even more bizarre was that the opera, described by its composer as a "musical folk drama", was attended not only by Italy's President Sergio Mattarella, the country's new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and several Italian ministers but also by the European Commission's President Ursula von der Leyen, who is widely known for being one of Brussels' most ardent supporters of confrontational anti-Russian policies.
That said, Rome's new center-right government that is currently moving away from its predecessor's ultra-globalist agenda on a range of important issues, including immigration policies, and is thus standing in strong opposition to the zealots of multiculturalism of all European states, has pledged it unwavering support of the regime in Kyiv and has even been supplying it with weapons. This is the logical corollary of their staunchly pro-American, trans-Atlantic stance.
It seems highly unlikely that these politicians would opt to go to a Mussorgsky's opera out of their sheer passion for music. As Russian political analyst Igor Panarin noted in one of his videos, the trip to Milan by these opera enthusiasts was undoubtedly inspired by a more profound consideration, something that should raise an alarm in Moscow.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt once famously said, "in politics, nothing happens by accident. If it does, you can bet it was planned that way." FDR surely knew what he was talking about.
Anyone with a scintilla of knowledge of Russia's history knows that it was during the reign of Boris Godunov, who remained on the tsar's throne from 1598 until his death in 1605, ruling his country with great efficiency, that the "Time of Troubles" began, a period of chaos and turmoil that only ended in 1613 with the accession to the throne of Mikhail I and with the establishment of the Romanovs dynasty.
The internal political strife that gripped Russia at that time provoked some foreign incursions, and eventually, Moscow ended up being occupied by Polish troops for nearly two years.
With all of this in mind, Boris Godunov's staging at La Scala and the presence of Western leaders at the show can be seen as sending a clear political message.