A nose for trouble? video pick of the week

Even though it’s before the new year and I’m not supposed to be doing anything with the laptop, I had to share the giant tap-dancing noses of the Shostakovich opera, The Nose. The video, an extract from Barrie Kosky’s production, draws on the absurdity of Nikolai Gogol’s short story; where a civil servant loses his nose and hunts desperately to get it back.

As well as making giant noses tap dance to Shostakovich, the exciting (and in my opinion deservedly-feted) Australian theatre and opera director Barry Kosky is known for other outrageously cross-disciplined, thought-provoking productions. He brought the fantastical to life with extraordinary trompe-l’oeil animation in The Magic Flute, stripped and tweaked the opera Carmen and, when invited to become the first Jewish director at Germany’s Wagner shrine (Bayreuth), served up a Meistersinger that confronted anti-Semitism in a very particular way.

I imagine that Shostakovich might well have chosen Kosky as collaborator. Kosky’s light-hearted, irreverent approach seems to echo the the innovative wit of Lopukhov’s choreography in The Bolt (which was banned by the stage after just one performance). Just two collaborations with Shostakovich resulted in Artistic Director Lopukhov being sacked from his position at the Mariinsky (then the Leningrad State Academic Ballet) and then sent to the Gulag! Shostakovich’s rather belated nose for trouble had him pull the first outing of his Symphony (4, I think) to avoid a similar fate. Luckily irreverence in opera – or indeed in most art – is no longer treated as troubling political crime.