Gawd bless the internet for creating a website that ranks the hot-or-not-ness of famous dead guys -- a website where the genius of Dmitri Shostakovich comes down to his viability as a "hot, brooding b!tch" on a ~historic b0ner~ scale. Conclusion: radicals are radical.
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.
Can you really have Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk without the angsty rape scene? American opera director Francesa Zambello managed to keep this one surprisingly tame -- OC was in the house at Scala two summers past for Richard Jones's production, which touted the rapists in rubber pig masks ejaculating white foam all over Aksinya. Hmmmm....
Jacqueline Dark's Aksinya takes a beating from that hawt Aussie chorus, whose apparent direction from Zambello was something like, "Ok guys, just look really hawt and grab your junk a lot. Yeah, perfect". Works for us!
~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ (Above: Bonus image of Sergei doing Katerina)
Yes, this is the same staging seen at the Royal Opera House’s 2006 production with Pappano on the podium, and I put forth exactly the same praises and detractions as I had previously read. I found that the direction clashed overtly with the musical cues of Shostakovich's heartbreakingly beautiful and equally jarring composition. There were just too many moments when the visual images set forth by Jones just didn't match at all with Shostakovich’s intricate score. But independently, they both kicked a$$ in their own way.
Yes, we had our pig-masked rapist spraying a stream of white foam directly into the unmentionables between Aksinya's splayed legs, we had our Katerina/Sergey humping-against-the-wall scene, we had our headless body of Zinovy wrapped in plastic being dragged-off the stage. Everything that was promised we served. The end result was a riveted, enchanted, slightly horrified audience, exhausted from the spectacle of 3.5 hours of pathos and visceral imagery, monsters and tacky wallpaper, set in the twisted nightmare of a dark David Lynchian canvas.
This was Inland Empire version 2.0, from the scenery to the overall tone, and I felt again I was stuck inside that freaking horrible rabbit-head puppet apartment! omg whatever u do DONT LOOK BELOW!!!!vvvvvvvvv omg I’m going to bed but I just know I’m going to have nightmares. ok now I'm unsure of what to write...everything's a little weird in here. even pagliaccio is scared <:"[
(In recognition of the Shoshtakovich Festival in Rome, here’s a picture of Valery Gergiev and NikolajZnaider during their recent appearances at Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia)
As the "Dmitrijevič Šostakovič Festival" a.k.a "Shostakovich Festival" closes its Italian segment of the “Shostakovich World Tour: Shostapalooza!” this weekend (at Rome’s Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia),...has anyone else been wondering how Gergiev has been holding-up?!
Following his flagrant infatuation with Shostakovich these past two years, Valery Gergiev launched an ambitious festival, "From Rome to St. Petersberg: A Tribute to Shostakovich" in remembrance of the Russian composer’s centennial year. On September 25, 2006 Gergiev marked the true 100th anniversary of the birth date of Shostakovich at The Mariinsky Theatre with the revival of three of the composer’s one-act ballets. He is also currently spearheading two prominent programs, the “Shostakovich Symphonies”, and “Shostakovich on Stage”, which have already traveled around the world, and have drafted other outstanding conductors into the mix, such as Essa Pekka-Salonen and Shostakovich’s son, Maxim. Gergiev also recently recorded Shostakovich’s symphonies four through nine with the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra.
Next up for Gergiev are two more happenings, already in the making: a festival for the 125th birth date of Igor Stravinsky in 2007; and in 2008, the 100th year passing of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. My god, when does this man sleep?! He makes me feel so...inadequate!! *runs away while crying*