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Most recent performance

There are currently no scheduled performances of The Nose. It was last on stage 20 October—9 November 2016 as part of the Autumn 2016/17 season.

Introduction

One morning, Major Kovalov discovers his nose has gone missing. A desperate nose-hunt ensues.

Background

Shostakovich was only 20 when he began writing The Nose, his operatic debut. He turned to a tiny 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. Artistic Director of Berlin’s Komische Oper Barrie Kosky directs, fresh from his triumphant production of Saul for Glyndebourne Festival. The Nose is performed in English, in a new translation by David Pountney.

News and features

  1. How do you begin to make sense of The Nose?

    1 November 2016

    Audiences and academics have long tried to understand the Gogol tale that inspired Shostakovich's opera – is it satire taken to extremes, or is it something else entirely?