On Wednesday 17th November there will be a lecture-screening of Boris Godunov Opera with an introduction by Julian Gallant at Pushkin House as part of the Nikolai Dvigubsky Series. The Royal Opera House Production by Andrei Tarkovsky (as transferred to the Mariinsky Theatre, St.Petersburg, in April 1990) features the orchestra and chorus of the Kirov Opera and stage set design by Nikolai Dvigubsky. The cast is as follows:
Boris Godunov – Robert Lloyd
Marina – Olga Borodina
Dmitri – Alexei Steblianko
Rangoni – Sergei Leiferkus
Pimen – Alexander Morosov
Shuisky – Yevgeny Boitsev
Boris Godunov Lecture-Screening at Pushkin House, London
When one thinks about Russia, be it the feasts of Ivan the Terrible, the European-style banquets of Peter the Great or even the large socio-political functions of Stalin, one conjures the images of excess, indulgence and merriment, all at the expense of the poverty-stricken masses. But the truth is, even with little money, the Russians know how to put on a good spread for their guests. Even those with little will open their door and greet their guests with the offering of a zakuski (закуски in Cyrillic).
Zakuski can be anything from a simple appetiser to a laden table. The tradition began in the decadent Russian manor houses of the 18th Century when the tradition of opening a meal with vodka, bread and cold soups, gave way to open sandwiches, meat and fish. Although the style of food changed, the diet remained relatively the same as before, with the exception of the introduction of cheese.
The Zakuski table would be ready to welcome guests inside from the harsh climate. A bottle of vodka, or more popular among the elite, European Champagne or wines, took pride of place, as did the samovar full with hot tea. Guests were invited to help themselves, mirroring the hospitality the Russians are famed for.
Among the delicacies, guests enjoyed salted cucumbers, sour cream (smetana), pickles, black bread and a simple meat or fish dishes. The zakuski was designed to be quite different to the main meal, so if the main course was to be fish, meat appetisers were provided and vice versa. Ensuring the table was an array of vibrant colours was important so the choice of ingredients was key: carrots, beetroot, cucumbers etc.
Blinis are an ideal component of the zakuski table.