Modest Mussorgsky’s national folk drama centres on a grim episode of late 17th-century Russian history. Ivan Khovansky, leader of the musketeer corps (streltsy), and his son Andrei, are planning a conspiracy, but the ambitious Prince Vasily Golitsyn, the boyar Shaklovity and cleric Dosifey also get involved in the struggle for power.
While still working on »Boris Godunow«, the composer Modest Mussorgsky began to think about a new opera project in 1872.
Inspired by the writer Vladimir Stasov, he began to read intensively about the circumstances of the Streltsy Uprising against Tsar Peter I and Sofia Alekseyevna. »I revel in collecting material, my head glows like a kettle that is constantly being replenished,« Mussorgsky wrote to his librettist Stasov. In many places, the composer deviated from historical accuracy to create new dramaturgical connections and contrast the political drama with the sphere of personal, amorous entanglements.
Mussorgsky was unable to complete the score before his death in 1881. Owing to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s intervention, who not only orchestrated the work but also deleted or thoroughly reworked large sections, »Khovanshchina« was performed years later. It was not until the early 1930s that a piano version of the original score was published, which also formed the basis for the newly-instrumented version of Claus Guth’s production under the musical direction of Vladimir Jurowski.