7 comments on “The Nose

  1. Although I was aware of the Gogol original and the Shostakovich opera, I’d never heard the latter, let alone seen it. From what you say it’s probably one of those pieces that can be defined by the word ‘challenging’. Sounds like the novelty of the storyline could be the slender thread that makes it hang together, though if so many of the audience left before it finished (and in only a two hour piece!), maybe not entirely successfully. You’ve now made me more intrigued than before, though without great enthusiasm. Shostakovich at his most earnest can turn into quite a slog.

  2. Sounds interesting but I admit that I have sat through few opera performances. What interests me are the amazing set designs that I have only seen on PBS. I would like to catch one of the simulcast performances one day.

    • I know exactly what you mean. Harper’s Other Dad came to the opera from an appreciation of classical music. I came to it from an appreciation of theater. As a result we experience opera in much different ways. I am often blown away by the stagecraft and design more than the music or the quality of the singing.

      If you have access to a theater that shows the HD simulcasts you should check out La Boheme in early April. The music is traditional, accessible and familiar. It is not obscenely long. The sets and costumes are usually good.

  3. Will have to check out the video later; having sound problems (it’s not you … or YouTube … it’s me)! I had never heard of “The Nose” until you both mentioned it on your blogs. I’m curious (although being an opera lightweight in the first place, I have a feeling this one will be difficult for me to grasp). In the meantime, however, I’m going to find a copy of Gogol’s short story. Thanks!

    • Please let me know what you think of the story. I have read a couple of Gogol stories; “The Overcoat” is the first that comes to mind but have never read The Nose.

  4. Actors and politicians, so full of… I don’t know if these people even know what an “honesty” is, any more, or how to express one. It does look dense in metaphor and might be fun. Don’t damage it by illustrating with propaganda.

    • Thanks for reading & commenting. I’m not sure whether the admonition not to ‘damage by illustrating with propaganda’ was aimed at Gogol, Shostakovich or me. It is an interesting idea but I think I disagree.

      I don’t think there is propaganda in my post. It isn’t propaganda to say that Nicholas I was reactionary. His predecessor, Alexander I, was probably as reform-minded as a 19th-century autocrat could be. Nicholas I’s ascension to the throne sparked the Decembrist Revolt and much his reign was a reaction to it. One can see being reactionary as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but the characterization is accurate. Similarly, Shostakovich’s entire career was a pendulum swinging between accolade and exile from the Stalinist power structure. That isn’t propaganda. It is a documented fact.

      Gogol’s stories must speak for themselves. He grew up during the reign of Alex I. His story is a social satire was written 10 years into the reign of Nicholas I. If there is propaganda (I would call it point of view) in it, it is in the text, not the illustration.

      Shostakovich was born during the monarchy. He was 11 when the Revolution began and he came of age during the Lenin years. He is not primarily known as a opera composer but he wrote a few. The Nose was his first and he chose to adapt Gogol’s social satire at a time when Stalin was consolidating his power in the vacuum created by Lenin’s death. In my post I was trying to suggest the influence of the Absurdists in the Arts more than the anti-Stalinists in politics. No idea if either are true but I don’t think it is propaganda to pose the question.

      There may be a propaganda element to Kentbridge’s use of “Stalinist kitsch” in his art and design of this production. It certainly ties the politics of early Soviet-era Russia to the social order being satirized in Gogol’s story. On the other hand the opera was written in Russia in 1928 so that could be historicism as easily as polemics.

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