"The Nose", opera in three acts, ten scenes based on the story
by N. Gogol
Libretto by Y. Zamyatin, G. Ionin, A. Preis and D. Shostakovich
It was completed in 1928
Premiere: January 18, 1930. Leningrad State Academic Maly Opera Theatre. Director N. Smolich. Conductor S. Samosud).
Manuscripts: Score Universal Edition (Vienna); Individual pieces in the Russian State Archive for Literature and Art (Stack 2048, Inv.2, Item 30).
First Edition: Moscow, "Muzfond" Publishers, 1970.
Piano Score, Leningrad "Sokol" Pubishers, 1929.
"...this subject attracted me through its fantastic, ridiculous content, presented by Gogol in an utterly realistic tone.
In "The Nose" Gogol, using the strange event of the loss of a nose by Collegiate Assessor, Kovalyov, creates a remarkable satire on the times of Nicholas I. He presents us with the image of the helpless and banal Kovalyov, who was unable to come up with anything better than announcing the loss of his nose in the newspaper; a dim-witted bureaucrat from the newspaper office; a local constable obsessed with administrative zeal; a bribe-taker; a drunkard barber with his nagging wife and many other characters - all typical in
their triteness against the general background of an age dominated by bureaucrats and the police. This absorbing subject gives rise to many impressive theatrical situations."
(D. Shostakovich. "On the occasion of the premiere of "The Nose". "Rabochii i teatr", 1929, No.24))
"The emphasis here is on the presentation of the text. I should add, that the music does not have the flavour of a deliberate parody. No! In spite of the comic nature of what is happening on stage, the music is not comic. I consider this to be correct, because Gogol himself imparts to all his comic situations a serious
tone. Herein lies the power and the true quality of Gogol's humour. He does not 'make fun'. The music also tries not to 'make fun'".
("Rabochii i teatr", 1930, No.3)
"The music is written not as a series of individual numbers, but as a continuous symphonic whole, without a pattern of leitmotifs. Each act is part of an integrated musical-theatrical symphony. A prominent place is accorded to the chorus and vocal ensembles..."
("Krasnaya Gazeta", July 24th).
"When writing this opera, I did not concentrate in the slightest on the fact that an opera is first and foremost a musical work. In "The Nose" the elements of action and music are on a par. Neither occupies pride of place. In this way I tried to create a synthesis of music and theatrical performance"
"There are many fine operas, which - musically speaking - are not operas at all. It is just that the composer has written his music on a subject which adheres approximately to the demands of the genre, whereas a truly operatic work has to provide a synthesis of music and action.
The composer as a creator of opera also has to be a playwright. He is writing a drama in music. It is easy to stage the work of a composer of this kind in an opera house. All you need to do is to know the rules of his game and to be in step with him. Indeed, in 'The Nose' Shostakovich left the performers scope for a variety of approaches to their characters and the director scope for presenting the action. Yet the essence of the drama. the nature of the conflict and the dramatic tension were, without doubt, to be found in the music itself. Nothing was left to the imagination. Everything is in the music".
(From an interview given to the author. Published for the first time)
"The audience does not watch an opera through the eyes of its heroes. Nor does it identify with them. The audience makes its choices, it is active. The words used on stage are exploited to the full. Moreover, the main satirical device of Gogol's story is retained. Gogol, as a virtuoso story-teller, presents all Kovalyov's ridiculous adventures in a totally serious and matter-of-fact tone, which achieves the maximum comic effect. Shostakovich does exactly the same".