Tonight in New York, South African mixed-media artist William Kentridge debuts as director and set designer for Dmitri Shostakovich's satirical opera, The Nose, his first collaboration with the Metropolitan Opera. The opera is based on Nikolai Gogol's short story about a 1920s St. Petersburg official, Kovalyov (sung by Baritone Paulo Szot) who discovers after waking that his nose (sung by Canadian tenor Gordon Gietz) is gone and has assumed a higher ranking than his former keeper.
Valery Gergiev conducts the opera, driven by whimsical musical interludes in a schizophrenic thrust of styles (folk, atonal, modern, etc.) written (both libretto and music, although the libretto was overseen by 3 other collaborators) by the 22-year-old Shostakovich between 1927 & '28. Too controversial in its scarily-oppressive time, the opera was only shown 16 replications, and resurfaced in the mid-1970s. Trailer below!
The Johannesburg based artist has previously staged opera for the KunstenFESTIVAL des Arts (in 1998 for Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria) and the Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels (in 2005 for Mozart's The Magic Flute). His sets for The Met's Nose boast soaring collages, film, sculpture and projections that allude to Soviet propaganda and the nose's political exploits.
The rest of NYC has Kentridge fever (really, he deserves it). MoMA is currently exhibiting a retrospective of Kentridge's mixed media work from the past three decades called "William Kentridge: Five Themes" through May 17. The New York Public Library is hosting a conversation ("Learning from the Absurd: A Conversation with William Kentridge") with the artist on Friday, March 12 where the artist talks about Gogol and Shostakovich. And the World Financial Center Winter Garden is holding a free concert/film screening on March 21 & 22 "Sounds from the Black Box", Kentridge's animations accompanied by the music of South African composer Philip Miller.