Mussorgsky’s historical masterpiece is a version of Pushkin’s dramatisation of an infamous time during the Time of Troubles. The Boyar Boris Godunov came to power after the Rurik dynasty of Tsars died out with the death of the last son of Ivan the Terrible.
The Rurik dynasty ruled for seven centuries though, and this being the sixteenth century, this was not the last we would hear from them. A series of pretenders backed by Polish nobility and Western Catholicism threatened the stability of the empire, taking over power. This Time of Troubles ended in 1613 with the choice of the frist Romanov as Tsar.
The story tells of a period of relative stability under the reign of Boris, but with his death it gets worse. A touchy subject in Russia, and nobody was really happy with it. Mussorgsky didn’t make himself popular with the choice of his opera.
His version of 1869 would be partly rewritten for that reason, by Rimsky-Korsakov. It might be that this version allowed the whole opera to survive. Since the 1980’s though, Mussorgsky’s original version has made a comeback, and it is now in the standard repertoire of many opera houses.
This recording is from 1953, and I don’t have the booklet that comes with it. I don’t know that much about it. It looks like it follows the original version though, looking at the titles. Listening to it was not easy though, as it is mono and not really well recorded.