It’s bad enough when your nose gets lopped off during a routine haircut. But to have it gallivanting around town, dressed up as a prominent state official and refusing to return to your face because it now outranks you—well, that’s enough to send you clamoring for justice.
Thus begins Dmitri Shostakovich’s absurdist opera The Nose, based on a short story by Nikolai Gogol. The production, directed by acclaimed artist William Kentridge, is the latest in The Met: Live in HD series, being shown as a high definition simulcast at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center (PAC) Oct. 27 at 2 p.m.
This production represents the happy convergence of Gogol’s surreal story and Shostakovich’s bold opera with Kentridge’s singular and exuberant artistic vision. His staging, which won rave reviews during its last run at the Met, includes “animation, superimposed graphics, collage, archival images and video,” according to the Metropolitan Opera website (metoperafamily.org).
The Nose illustrates both the oppression and the absurdity of the times by pointing out that the hapless Kovalyov is most concerned with what losing his nose does to his social standing. Kentridge states that he found striking similarities between 1920s Communist Russia and 1980s South African apartheid.
“If you were of a slightly lower rank, you were in abject terror of anyone who was above you. And if you were of a higher rank you had a murderous contempt of anyone below you … it feels very familiar to growing up in South Africa … ,” he said in a 2010 Met interview.
Shostakovich composed the opera at age 22, during the unique moment in the 1920s and ’30’s when the Soviet Union was experiencing “a period of wonderful artistic experimentation followed by a crackdown after Stalin took power,” according to the website.
Other upcoming Met: Live in HD productions include Puccini’s Tosca on Dec. 1; Verdi’s Falstaff Jan. 12, 2014; Dvorák’s Rusalka Feb. 23; Borodin’s Prince Igor March 2; Massenet’s Werther March 15; Puccini’s La Boheme April 5; and Cosi Fan Tutte May 4. See pacslo.org for complete details and show times. General admission tickets cost $27; $12 for students.
Met: Live in HD productions offer the audience a look behind the scenes during intermission breaks, including “interviews with singers, directors, designers, and stage technicians, as well as documentaries and other short features,” according to the website.