I’d never read Gogol’s short story The Nose, but watching the William Kentridge production of Shostakovich’s operatic version, it felt somehow both fresh and familiar.
Fresh because it’s easy to imagine how young Shostakovich was when he wrote the music, how new the century was, and how daring and exciting it must have been to create a new kind of opera – modern, antic, and absurd.
Familiar because of the source story’s influence both direct and indirect. A bureaucrat wakes up one morning to find his nose is gone. Then he discovers his nose is human-sized and living a life of its own. The story was written in the 1830’s, about eighty-five years before Gregor Samsa awoke to his own changed state, about ninety years before before surrealism, expressionism, and dada, somewhere close to a hundred before the birth Philip Roth, Woody Allen, and Mel Brooks.
The story´s influence on Roth and Allen is unambiguous. Look at the giant breast run amok in Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex (1972), and then there’s the even more obvious reference in 1973’s Sleeper in which the future society’s dictator Continue reading Idiots at the Opera — Notes on The Nose