The Metropolitan Opera HD Live (2006–…): Season 8, Episode 2 - Shostakovich: The Nose - full transcript

Hello, I'm Patricia Racette,

thank you for joining us for
the one and only opera

about the adventures of a facial
appendage on the loose...

Dmitri Shostakovich's
"The Nose."

The opera is based on
the surreal short story

by the Russian master of satire,
Nikolai Gogol.

The story's absurd premise of

the rise and fall of
the nose of a petty bureaucrat

offers the perfect showcase
for the inventive

South African artist
William Kentridge.

Using a palette of animation
and projections,

sculptured scenery,
giant collages, and props,

Kentridge has created a dazzling
visual realization

of Shostakovich's daring score.

And now, let's hear directly
from the artist himself

in conversation with
Met General Manager, Peter Gelb.

- Hello, William.
- Hello, Peter.

So, I'm thrilled, obviously,

that we're finally presenting
"The Nose," uh, not only...

- Me too.
- Not only to the audience

inside the Metropolitan Opera
House, but to a worldwide

audience who will be watching it
in a few minutes

live in high definition.

So, can you tell me a little bit
about why...

Why "The Nose"?
Why did you choose "The Nose"?

I think "The Nose"...

First, because of
the Gogol short story,

which I first came across,

and then I discovered
the Shostakovich opera.

But, I think it's...

I have an interest in
the early history of modernism,

and in making a strong place
for the absurd...

For the absurd not as a joke,

but as an astonishingly rich way
of observing the world

and understanding the world.

So, this is an absurd story
of Gogol...

It's an absurd story of a man

who wakes up one morning
and his nose has gone.

And he tries to find his nose,

but the absurdity comes
when he realizes

his nose is
an independent being,

of a higher social rank
than he is,

and will have
nothing to do with him.

So, it's about the way in which

we are each our own
wayward child.

There's parts of us that resist
control by other parts.

You write something,
and then you read it,

and you as a reader completely
are disgusted

with how feeble you are
as a writer.

So, it's that kind of split,
which is a joke...

A man and his nose
at loggerheads...

But is also very close to

the splits we often feel
in ourselves.

Plus, it's also so much about
the extraordinary flowering

of visual art in the early years
of the Soviet Union

and the collapse of that.

So, there's...
There's so many layers

in which it has a richness.

I remember going with you
to St. Petersburg

back when we were
planning this project.

And we went to see, I guess it
was the only production of

"The Nose" that existed in the
world, in the Mariinsky Theatre.

And then...
But most of the time,

you were out in shops,
in curiosity shops,

antique shops buying up what
seemed to be

a treasure trove of
Stalin era kitsch.

How did you use that?

Well, it was Stalin era kitsch,

but there were also a lot of
old encyclopedias,

which we used as the basis for
collage for doing the backdrop,

because the production
relies on projection,

but projection, not on a plain
cinema screen,

but on this painted...
Traditional scenic paintings,

paintings, in this case,
of newspapers,

beautifully painted by
the team at the Met.

Of paintings of encyclopedias,

on which the whole story of
"The Nose" is played out,

both on stage and on the screen.

And part of your creative
process is to actually

make a movie that is projected
onto the scenery.

So, the... the stages,
as it were,

the terrain of Kovalyov,

of the singer and the actor
who has lost his nose.

- The central character.
- The central character.

And the screen becomes in a way,

the terrain for the nose
to go on its own adventures,

to see itself as
an equestrian statue,

to see how high it can go
in the social rank,

to see itself as
Anna Pavlova dancing.

And so, all the things which are
hinted at in the libretto

and in the music can get a full

extra life on screen
as projections.

And the nose also exists as a
three-dimensional object

on top of a man on stage.

Right. So... so, I guess
everyone who knows you

as an artist,
who admires your work,

who has seen your work would
probably ask you this question,

who was the model for the nose?

Well, the model for the nose
would be to...

Clearly was based on my...

On my nose, but it's important.

It had to be a nose big enough

to fit a whole person inside
to perform.

So if you have a neat,
retroussé nose,

or a very long, very thin nose,
that doesn't work.

You need something that's got a
certain solidity and mass

to contain the part.

And, like Kovalyov's nose
going on its own journey,

my nose stepped up
and took the role.

Your nose has joined the
immortal ranks of grand opera.

For better or worse.

Well, I'm sure audiences today

are going to enjoy seeing your
nose on the stage of the Met,

and this wonderful,
fantastic production

that you've created...
Thank you so much.

Today's performance of
"The Nose"

features a large cast of
singing actors,

many of them Russian.

At the center of the action is
Brazilian baritone, Paulo Szot

in the role of Kovalyov,

the bureaucrat
whose nose has gone rogue.

Here now is "The Nose."

Ivan, your hands always stink.

What do you mean?

I don't know, they just stink.

Today, I won't drink any coffee.

I want hot bread with onions, instead.

–Fine. More coffee for me!
–I'd really like both!

Can't ask for two things at once!

Solid as a rock. What could it be?

A nose?

Where did you slice off that nose?

I'll call the police!

People say when you shave them...

you practically pull off their noses!

Calm down, Praskovia, I'll hide it!

Let it sit there. I'll take it away.

You think I'd allow that in my home?

A severed nose?

You dried-up old twig!

All you can do is strop your razor!

And you can barely do that, you fool!

Think I'll shield you from the cops?

You slob! Stupid loafer! Take it away!


I may have come home drunk last night.

Something strange has happened.

Bread comes from an oven – but a nose?

I just can't figure it out!

Let him take it wherever he wants!

Pick that up. You left something.

–Where are you going?
–Good morning!

–Who are you going to shave so early?
–Whose throat are you going to cut today?

Where are you going?
Can't see that she is a lady?

Where are you taking this?

Don't hide it, show us what it is!

–Ivan Yakovlevich, I am very glad to
see you! –Why is it so crowded here?

Come over here, my fine fellow.

Good health to you, Excellency.

No, brother. None of that "Excellency."

What were you doing by the river?

Just seeing how fast the current was.

Liar! Answer me truthfully.

I'll give you three free shaves a week.

No, my friend. That's worthless.

I've already got three barbers...

all of whom feel greatly honored.

Just tell me what you were doing.

On yesterday's evening
a pimple sprung up on my nose.

Give me a mirror!

What on earth? My nose!

Where's my nose? This isn't possible!

Some water, and a towel!

Indeed... no nose! It's not possible!

I must still be asleep.

Pinch me!

No, in fact, I'm not asleep.

It's gone....

My nose....

My coat.

Where shall I say you've gone?

To the chief of police!

How shall I approach him?

That uniform...

he's a state councillor.

The devil alone knows what to do!

My gracious sir....

What can I do for you?

I'm sorry, gracious sir...

it seems you should
know your proper place.

But I find you – where? In a cathedral!

What do you mean? Explain!

How can I explain it?

I'm a major.

Being without a nose is unseemly.

An orange vendor on the bridge...

could sit around without a nose.

But I'm planning to get–

I often visit the councillor's wife.

What it means – judge for yourself.

I don't know, sir, if, pardon me...

you deem such behavior honorable.

But surely you must understand....

I understand absolutely nothing!

Express yourself more plainly.

I don't know how to take your words.

It's perfectly clear, unless....

You are my very own...


You're sadly mistaken, gracious sir!

I am merely myself.

Besides, the two of us...

could never have been close.

For judging from your uniform...

you must serve in the senate...

or perhaps in the courts.

Whereas I'm in the education ministry.

Make way!

Hey! Where did he go?

He's my nose!

Is the police commissioner in?

He is not.

He just left.

What luck!

Yes, he just left moments ago.

If you'd arrived a moment earlier...

you might have found him at home.

Drive on!

–Straight ahead.

Straight ahead? The road forks.


Or left?

To the newspaper office!

Sir, the puppy isn't worth much.

I wouldn't give a kopeck for it!

But the countess loves it!

To whoever finds it...

a hundred rubles!

A hundred rubles!

Who here takes advertisements?

Good day!

My respects.

–I'd like to publish–
–One moment!

To tell the truth....

Let me ask you.

Hunters prefer pointers or poodles.

Money would be no object, though...

if it's a good dog.

This is a case of fraud and knavery.

I don't understand the whole thing.

I'd like to print an announcement....

"Return that scoundrel to me..."

"for a generous reward."

Your surname, sir?

Why? I can't tell it to you.

I have many acquaintances in society...

including the staff officer's wife.

They'd soon hear of it, God forbid!

You must simply write....

"A collegiate assessor," or better...

"A gentleman ranking as major."

So a household serf has escaped?

An even greater swindle!

The escapee is...

my nose!

A strange surname!

What did he steal, this Mr. Mynose?

"My nose!" My own personal nose!

It's vanished!

How could a nose vanish?

How could it just vanish?

The devil is playing tricks on me!

I still don't fully understand.

I can't explain it, but the point is...

my nose is driving around the city...

posing as a state councillor.

That's why I beg you to announce...

that anyone who catches him...

should return him to me right away.

You can imagine how it feels...

to lose such a visible body part.

It's not like missing a toe.

With boots, no one would notice.

You'd never see it.

Right! Never see it!

Each week I see the councillor's wife.

Also, the staff officer's wife.

Her daughter is so beautiful.

So, judge my situation for yourself.

In my current state...

I cannot present myself.

I cannot place such an announcement.

It might hurt the paper's reputation.

If everyone advertised runaway noses...

they'd say we print absurdities.

But how is this matter an absurdity?

It's nothing of the sort.

It may seem so to you.

Last week something similar happened.

A bureaucrat brought in an ad.

It cost two rubles and change.

It concerned a runaway black poodle.

Can you guess what it really was?

It was a libel!

And the runaway poodle was a cashier–

From which department, I'm not sure.

Imagine! How amazing!

There you have it.

I'm not advertising about a poodle.

It's about my very own nose!

Which is to say, myself.

No, I cannot publish such an ad.

Even though I've truly lost my nose?

If you lost it, talk to a doctor!

They say there are doctors...

who can tack on any nose you want.

I can see you're a prankster.

I swear, as God is holy!

Since I couldn't convince you...

I'll just show you.

Why bother?
But if you wouldn't mind...

I'd love to have a look.


extremely strange!

The spot is as smooth as a pancake.

Yes, it's incredibly flat.

So, now you won't dispute my claim?

You see, you can't fail to publish it.

I'll be most grateful to you.

I'm glad I had the pleasure...

of making your acquaintance.

To print this is no great matter.

But I don't see how it will help you.

Why not hire a writer to pen a story...

describing this rare phenomenon?

And get it published in "The Northern Bee."

For the benefit of our youth...

or as a matter of general interest.

I'm very sorry this happened to you.

Would you care for a pinch of snuff?

It can cure headaches.

It's very good for hemorrhoids, too.

How can you joke about this subject?

Surely you see I can no longer sniff!

Enough with the snuff!
I can't bear it!

Even if you offered me the good kind!

"Trusty driver seeks employment."

"Spirited grey horse for sale."

"Summer cottage with garage."

"Land suitable for planting."

With invincible force...

I am bound to my darling.

Mercy, Lord, on her and on me!

What care I for imperial wealth...

if but my darling be in health?

Lord have mercy on her and on me!

Swine! Always busy with nonsense!

My God, do I deserve such misfortune?

If I were missing a hand or a leg...

it would be better.

But without a nose, a fellow is...

neither fish nor fowl.

Just a thing to be thrown out!

Had I lost it in war, or in a mishap....

But it's gone – nothing to show for it.

Not a sou.

But no, it's not possible...

a nose can't vanish for good.

It's not at all likely.

Maybe I'm dreaming...

or delusional.

Maybe I mistakenly drank...

instead of water...

the vodka I use as aftershave.

That fool Ivan didn't put it away.

So I probably drank it.

What a scandalous sight!

By the power vested in me...

apprehend this thief immediately!

That'd be a miracle!

For mercy's sake, don't you see?

You can't frighten a fellow like that!

The commotion could kill him!

To hell with your commotion!

You won't listen to me?

You think you're in charge?

You're a rebel – starting mischief?

I'll report this!

Andryushka, step to my right side.

Stop! Petrushka, stand down!

Step over there. Move, you devils!

That's it! Step lively!

Hurry! Fly like a bird!

What, brothers? Glory to God!

Despite your age, you've got no sense.

He's a clever bird.

That fellow should hang from an oak.

He gathered his tail like a dog.

Like Cain, he began shaking.

He gathered his tail like a dog.

Like Cain, he began shaking.

And his nose spewed tobacco.

He gathered his tail like a dog.

Like Cain, he began shaking.

And his nose spewed tobacco.

Don't take a remote road at this hour.

One risks attack by thieves.

Spare us!
Why talk about such things?

He blurts out whatever comes to mind.

Say something bad, bad things happen.

Dark of night is no time to travel.

And the driver is so puny.

He's drunk, and his pistols are rusty.

If you fire them, they'll explode!

They'll destroy your arms and face!

Only God knows what you're saying!

It's Satan's work, surely!

Yes, diabolical powers are at work!

He's not a man, but a devil!

May the mother of God keep you....

Kneel for your mother's prayer.

Don't forget your mother.

God keep you from misfortune.

Now, according to Christian custom...

we must all kneel before a journey.

–It's not him?

You don't care!

What should I do?

If some devil were to interfere–

Just for fun....

There might be some good boozing.

Greetings, Piotr Fyodorovich!

Good day, my friend and benefactor!

Ivan Ivanovich!

I see you're tired because of your leg.

My leg! Ha, ha!

I'll tell you the whole story!

Ivan Ivanovich!

I've had such exploits and travels!

I even climbed a fence once
to see a pretty German girl.

This is damned serious business.

How odd! I think I'll take some snuff.

Some of your "glorious" tobacco.

It wouldn't make an old hen sneeze!

I have something to tell you.

This very summer...

I shall die.

Death and I have made our peace.

Only God knows what you're saying!

I beg you, fulfill my last wishes.

Bury me in the churchyard.

Dress me in my grey frock...

not in the satin gown.

Dead people don't need such gowns.

Your death is a long way off.

You frighten us with such talk.

No! I already know when I will die.

Don't grieve for me.

I'm already old.

I've lived long enough.

And you're also old.

We'll soon meet again, in glory.

Bagels! Bagels!

By God, they're fine! Buy them!

What a cute wench!

A tasty morsel!

Bagels! Bagels!

Come over here!

Buy them!

What have you got there?

Bagels, by God!


What have you got there?

Let me inspect them.



What has happened?


Let me be! How dare you!

I'm an important state councillor!


Where is he?


Seize him!

Take that! And that!

♪ Nos! ♪

♪ Nos... ♪

♪ Nos ♪

Is this the home of Assessor Kovalyov?

Indeed! Major Kovalyov is here.

Pardon, but have you lost your nose?

It has now been found.

What did you say?
Found? How?

It was intercepted on the post road...

with the papers of some bureaucrat.

Where is it?

Strangely enough,
I myself took him for a gentleman.

Luckily, I had my eyeglasses with me.

So I soon recognized him as...

a nose!

I see you standing before me...

and I see you have a face.

But I can't tell if you have a nose.

My mother-in-law's also blind as a bat.

Where is it? I'll go get it!

I knew you'd need it, so I brought it.

Our chief suspect is a rascal barber.

He's now in custody at the station.

They say he's a drunk and a thief.

He swiped buttons from a shop.

You'll find your nose just as before.

Will you join me for a cup of tea?

I'm afraid I cannot.

I'm visiting the prison for the insane.

There's the pimple on the left side.

The cost of living has risen terribly.

My mother-in-law lives with us.

My eldest son is terribly clever...

but I have no money to educate him.

I have no money to educate him.

I have no money to educate him.

That's it! On the left side, a pimple!

My very own nose!

It's found! It must be reattached–

Where it belongs – between my cheeks.

What if... it doesn't stick?

It won't stick! How awful!

It won't stay on!

Come on! Stick, you scoundrel!

Is it possible it won't stick?

My God!

It won't stick!

♪ Ivan! Ivan! ♪

Something urgent?

Go to the doctor.

Come on... stick, you fool!

It won't stick!

Here, your honor.

What an awful, unexpected thing!

Help me!

May God bless you!

How long have you been so afflicted?

I awoke early this
morning and saw nothing...

just a flat, smooth patch.

Your other parts are in their places?

What does it matter to you?

Sit still. Turn your head.

That was nothing!

Turn your head to the right. There.

No. Impossible.

You're better off staying as you are.

Because it could grow much worse.

Have mercy! Is there no remedy?

I suppose I could stick it back on.

But I assure you, you would end up...

much worse off.

Make it stick somehow.

I'd support it with my hand if needed.

I'll even give up dancing.

Anything that might cause injury!

I'll show gratitude for your visit...

as far as my means allow.

I never attend patients for profit.

It would be contrary to my principles.

I will accept a fee for a visit...

but only to avoid offending.

I could easily reattach your nose.

But I assure you, on my honor...

it would be far worse.

Let nature take its course.

Wash often, in cold water.

You'll be fine without a nose.

Place it in a jar of spirits.

Add spicy vodka and warm vinegar.

Then you'll get a good price for it.

I might buy it if you'd allow me.

No! By no means will I sell it!

I'd rather see it lost again!

I was just trying to help you.

What do you want?

I have done my best.

Now, stick, you fool!

What an ugly sight!

Can it not be made to stick?

Try some spit.

No, it just won't stay on.

You might try homeopathic remedies.

How did such a fateful thing happen?

I suspect the staff officer's wife.

She wants me to marry her daughter.

I said I was too young.

I must serve until I turn forty-two.

The officer's wife is out to ruin me.

She hired a band of witches.

My nose couldn't have been cut off.

Nobody has entered my room recently.

The barber shaved me on Wednesday.

The last two days my nose was intact.

I'd feel it if my nose was severed.

And it wouldn't have healed so fast.

A very nasty affair!

Should I sue the staff officer's wife?

Would she not then restore it?

Write to her.

"If my nose is not..." and so forth.

"Gracious Madam..."

"Pelageya Grigoryovna."

I see a journey.

A king of hearts.

Tears... a love letter.

A king of clubs shows great interest.

But a villainess is on the way.

Who is the king of hearts?

I don't know.

Platon Kuzmich Kovalyov.

It's surely not him.

–There's no other.
–It's not him.

No! Not him!

Is this Pelageya Grigoryovna?

Is it Podtotschina to whom I speak?

I am she.

A letter for you.

My beating heart awaits it.

My ears hear the eternal sound.

But my heart remains indifferent.

Ah, no!

Read Kovalyov's letter.

"Gracious lady, Pelageya Grigoryovna!"

"I don't understand your conduct."

"But you won't benefit from it."

"I won't be forced to marry her."

"Believe me, I am now aware..."

"of the situation with my nose."

"And I know you are the cause."

"Its sudden disappearance...."

"Sir, your letter surprised me."

"This was caused by witchcraft!"

"I never expected your unjust blame."

"Witchcraft, plied by you or others."

"I've never met this councillor."

"I must give you fair warning–"

"I did receive another suitor."

"If my nose is not restored today..."

"I must take legal action."

"Something's wrong with your nose?"

"Yours, Platon Kuzmich."

"Even so, I'm amazed you'd think..."

"I'd deny you my daughter's hand."

"My inclination is quite otherwise."

"If you wish to wed my daughter..."

"I'll gladly satisfy your desire."

"This is my desire, too."

"In hopes of that, I remain..."

"Pelageya Podtotschina."

No, she's surely not guilty.

Couldn't be!

No criminal could have written this.

Only the devil can make sense of this!

Kovalyov's nose is out strolling.

Now? Here?

The story is odd. But very sad.

There it is!

Over there!

What a strange case!

Let me see it! Where is it?

Where is it?

There it is!

What's that? God save us!

That's not it!

I don't understand this whole story.

This proves we're not enlightened.

Enlightenment is overrated.

Where is it?

The nose is at Yunker's store!

Where? Yunker's department store?

Where is the nose?

Where? Point it out!

For sale! Step right up!

It's at the window! In the store!

–For sale!
–I'll take one.

Only eighty kopecks!

Stop pushing, you lout!

Look there!

It's an ordinary jacket! Not a nose!

A jacket! Ha, ha!
And not a nose!

Why do people go crazy over nonsense?

No nose – only a jacket! Hogwash!

The nose is in the Summer Garden!

Not on Nevsky Prospect!

To the Summer Garden!

Let's go!

–Michel, shall we go?
–Yes, let's!

–Look there!
–Let's go look!

Major Kovalyov's nose!

It's in the Summer Garden.

Mama, show us the nose!

Hurry, children. To the Summer Garden!

Major Kovalyov's nose is out strolling!


The nose is in the Summer Garden.

Show us! Where is it?

Gentlemen, make way for Khosrev-Mirza!

Get back! Khosrev-Mirza wants to see!

Make way!

(I don't see a thing!)

A nose strolling in a Summer Garden!

What a rare phenomenon!

A most extraordinary freak of nature.

(Take me home.)

Khosrev-Mirza saw it!

Make way for Khosrev-Mirza!

Khosrev-Mirza saw it!

Break it up!

Break it up!

Where is it? We want to see!

Break it up!

Here it is!

My nose, indeed! It's back!

My nose, in the place it belongs!


Something urgent?

Ivan, is there a pimple on my nose?

What if he says, "There's no pimple?"

"In fact, there's no nose!"


No pimple. Your nose is clear.

Wonderful! The devil's defeated!

I feel like a peasant at the fair!

Look at my master dancing!

So it's you!

Tell me, are your hands clean?

–They're clean.

By God, they're clean!

Show me.


(There! There it is.)

(Really. Imagine!)

Your hands always stink.

What do you mean?

I don't know, they just stink.

Hey, careful!

Good day, Platon Kuzmich.

Good day!

(Here's my nose!)

Good day, Stefan Lazarevich!

Indeed, good day, Platon Kuzmich.

(Here's my nose!)

(If the major doesn't laugh at me...)

(...everything is in its proper place.)

A sight for sore eyes!

It's you! I know you!

(Wonderful! The devil's defeated!)

Platon Kuzmich!

Pelageya Grigoryovna!


A man traveled for three years....

He returned to his happy wife.

She met him, with a child in tow.

"Wife, where did you get this child?"

"From God," she said.

"Trollop! From God?"

"I'll make you pay for giving birth!"

He'd forgotten he was the father!

Platon Kuzmich!

Would you dine with us tomorrow?

If you plan to propose to my daughter...

tomorrow will be satisfactory.

I'm not going to marry your daughter.

This is merely "par amour."

But wait.

Now, after some reflection...

we must admit that there is a great deal
that is very implausible in this story.

Apart from the fact that it's highly unlikely for
a nose to disappear in such an unnatural way...

and then reappear all around the town
dressed as a state councillor...

how could Kovalyov
have been so ignorant...

as to think newspapers would
accept advertisements about noses?

It is improper, inept...


But the strangest,
most incredible thing of all...

is that authors should choose
to write about such subjects.

That, I confess,
is entirely incomprehensible.

It's just... no, no,
I don't understand it at all!

It's of no use to the country whatsoever.

I don't know what one can make of it.

And yet, if you stop to
think for a moment...

there is a grain of truth in it.

Whatever you may say,
these things do happen in this world...

not often, but they do happen.

Listen, my lovely. Come to my house.

Ask anyone where Major Kovalyov lives.


My little beauty!