This Soviet opera film set in 17th-century Moscow is, according to New York Times critic A.H.Weiler, “...a fiercely nationalistic, gloomy, yet resplendent, picturization in fine colors and appropriate wide-screen of Mussorgsky's opera ‘Khovanschina.'
“But, like its sources, the musical drama,... considered by most authorities as unfinished at the composer's death, still appears to be slightly segmented, rough and opaque to the untutored eye of the amateur beholder. This despite Shostakovich's orchestration and help on the film script and ample English subtitles. On... screen the beauty, power and music of Khovanschina's parts are clearer and more impressive than the whole.
“...it is understandable that a dramatization of events in a Moscow riven by religious schisms, court intrigue and military and political power putsches would not be simple to stage or screen flowingly and lucidly. This Khovanschina is neither, but its strength is evident in the direction of Vera Stroyeva, who also collaborated on the script, in effectively using masses of people in choral groups and, occasionally, in individual scenes.
“...Miss Stroyeva's cast is striking physically and vocally, and is able, now and again, to project effectively the drama of violently changing times.”