Modest Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov keeps with the un-official theme of the SF Opera's Fall season: Presidenting is hard work. Well, Godunov is not presidenting as much as Tsaring, but he comes on the tail of Idomeneo, who has to sacrifice his son to avoid his city's destruction by a giant monster, and Simon Boccanegra who has to fend all these nasty homicidal traitors.

It's hard work, as Boris Godunov became Tsar after assassinating Dimitri, the rightful heir to the throne, when Dimitri was seven, and has pangs of guilt when a young monk starts believing he is in fact Dimitri, and starts inciting riots. It's also hard work for Mussorgsky, who has to put together a sweepingly broad story that spans decades and yet still focuses on the deep emotions of the Tsar. It's hard work for the director, who has to stage this story, which unfolds on a scale which ranges from the grand and magnificent down to the very intimate. Yet, it's easy work for us, the audience: this production totally succeeds in putting it all together.

Pictures by SF Opera/Terrence McCarthy. Above, Samuel Ramey, below Vitalij Kowaljow and Vsevolod Grivnov, and Andrew Bidlack.