One morning, Major Kovalov discovers his nose has gone missing. A desperate nose-hunt ensues. Barrie Kosky makes his Royal Opera debut with a new production of Shostakovich’s surrealist satire, conducted by Ingo Metzmacher and translated by David Pountney.
Shostakovich was only 20 when he began writing THE NOSE, his operatic debut. He turned to a short story by Gogol: an absurdist satire, where a civil servant’s errant nose launches its owner on a ludicrous battle against both nose and the authorities, as bureaucratic processes break down in the face of so unusual a problem.
Gogol’s surrealist fable fired Shostakovich’s imagination, and he responded with a work of exuberant energy, full of musical jokes and grotesque parody – from the famed Act I entr’acte for percussion ensemble to plaintive laments, careening counterpoint, folksong (accompanied by balalaika) and rambunctious polkas.
Shostakovich finished the work in about a year, and in the following months gave successful performances of extracts from the opera. But it was to be another two years, in 1930, before THE NOSE was staged in full, by which time Soviet cultural climate had turned sternly against works of such perceived frivolity.
The opera was quickly dropped from the repertory; but since its rediscovery in the 1960s it has steadily gained recognition for Shostakovich’s baffling, brilliant wit. This new production is The Royal Opera’s first and it is directed by Barrie Kosky, Artistic Director of Berlin’s Komische Oper, whose YEVGENIY ONEGIN delighted audiences of The Opera Platform in January 2016. THE NOSE is performed in English, in a new translation by David Pountney.