When Shostakovich Adapted Gogol’s “The Nose” Into an Opera: Watch Giant Noses Tap Dancing on the Stage


The first-time reader of a tale known as “The Nose” might be expecting any collection of issues: a personality with a willing sense of scent; a homicide evidenced by means of the titular organ, disembodied; a broader ironic level about the issues proper in entrance of our faces that we in some way by no means see. But given its conception in the creativeness of Nikolai Gogol, “The Nose” is ready a nostril — a nostril that, on its personal, lives, breathes, walks, and clothes in finery. The nostril does this, it kind of feels, so as to upward push in rank previous that of its former proprietor, the run-of-the-mill St. Petersburg civil servant Collegiate Assessor Kovalyov.

Written in 1835 and 1836, “The Nose” satirizes the lengthy technology in Imperial Russia after Peter the Great offered the Table of Ranks. Meant to bring in one of those proto-meritocracy, that gadget assigned rank to army and govt officials in accordance, a minimum of in concept, to their skill and achievements. The undeniable fact that those that attained prime sufficient ranks would upward push the to the stage of hereditary nobles created an all-out standing struggle throughout many sections of society — a struggle, to the thoughts of Gogol the grasp observer of paperwork, that would pit a person no longer simply in opposition to his colleagues and pals however in opposition to his personal frame portions.

Nearly a century after the tale’s newsletter, a tender Dmitri Shostakovich took it upon himself to evolve “The Nose” into his first actual opera. In collaboration with Alexander Preis, Georgy Ionin, and Yevgeny Zamyatin (creator of the enduring dystopian novel We), the composer rendered much more outrageously this story of a nostril long past rogue. Incorporating items of Gogol’s different tales like the “The Overcoat” and “Diary of a Madman” in addition to the play Marriage and the diary Dead Souls — to not point out the writings of different Russian masters, together with Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov — the 1928 opera combines all kinds of musical types each conventional and experimental, and amongst its set items features a quantity carried out by means of large tap-dancing noses.

You can see that phase performed in the video above. The venue is London’s Royal Opera House, the director is Barrie Kosky of Berlin’s Komische Oper, and the 12 months is 2016, part a century after The Nose‘s revival. Though finished in the overdue 1920s, it did not premiere on level in complete till 1930, when Soviet censorship concentrated its energies on quashing such non-revolutionary spectacles. It would not be staged once more in the Soviet Union till 1974, just about a decade after its premiere in the United States. (Just a pair years sooner than, Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker had tailored the tale into the pinscreen animation previously featured here on Open Culture.) The sociopolitical issues of Gogol’s early 19th century and Shostakovich’s early 20th will have handed, however the enchantment of the former’s sharp satire — and the sheer Pythonesque weirdness of the latter’s operatic sensibility — indubitably have not.

Related Content:

Nikolai Gogol’s Classic Story, “The Nose,” Animated With the Astonishing Pinscreen Technique (1963)

Revered Poet Alexander Pushkin Draws Sketches of Nikolai Gogol and Other Russian Artists

The Bizarre, Surviving Scene from the 1933 Soviet Animation Based on a Pushkin Tale and a Shostakovich Score

George Saunders’ Lectures on the Russian Greats Brought to Life in Student Sketches

Why You Should Read The Master and Margarita: An Animated Introduction to Bulgakov’s Rollicking Soviet Satire

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and proclaims on towns, language, and tradition. His tasks come with the Substack publication Books on Cities, the e-book The Stateless City: a Walk thru 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.


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