A nose goes independent. It leaves an embarrassing empty space on its owner’s face, arrogates a social position for itself and struts in its State Councillor uniform along Nevsky Avenue in Saint Petersburg. Its tattered owner, Kovalyov, loses himself in a ludicrous search for his status symbol.
The 21-year-old Shostakovich’s first opera is a searing critique of post-Tsarist Russia, shaken by world war, bloody civil war and rising state terror. The image of a brutal society filled with physically and spiritually distorted moral cowards and perpetrators of violence is musically captured in the grotesque interchange of the most diverse style levels – circus music and Russian-orthodox church music, gallops, polkas, marches and fugues are intercut in filmic radicalism. Behind the caustic wit lurk fear and violence.