Nos. Opera v 3-kh aktakh po N. V. Gogoliu. Libretto E. Zamiatina, G. Ionina, A. Preisa i D. Shostakovicha [The Nose: an opera in three acts based on N. V. Gogol’. Libretto by E. Zamyatin, G. Ionin, A. Preis and D. Shostakovich].

Leningrad: Gosudarstvennyi Malyi Opernyi Teatr, 1930. Small octavo (17 × 12.5 cm). Original staple-stitched printed wrappers; 12, [3] pp. Wrappers very lightly worn; spine fold a bit rubbed; faint private stamp inside rear wrapper. Item #4389

Rare souvenir booklet distributed during the premiere of Shostakovich’s opera The Nose (marked “not for sale”). The opera was produced by Nikolai Smolich, with artist V. V. Dmitriev and conductor Samuil Samosud. Shostakovich wrote the libretto with Georgii Ionin, Aleksandr Preis, and Evgeny Zamyatin. The booklet contains a preface by the Artistic-Political Council, which carefully justifies the opera’s musical complexity to proletarian viewers – an important step given the controversial responses to the opera even before its premiere. A brief statement of Shostakovich’s aims follows, then two short articles by the critic Ivan Sollertinskii and the stage designer. The final leaf is a feedback form, to be filled out and submitted by the viewers.

First begun in 1927, when Shostakovich was only twenty-one, The Nose was the composer’s first opera. His turn to the nineteenth-century writer Gogol (and, in part, Dostoevsky) was controversial: “the opera was harshly criticized by the proletarian wing for its avoidance of a Soviet theme, its musical complexity, and its inaccessibility to the masses” (Laurel E. Fay, Shostakovich: A Life, 55). The present brochure clearly attempts, as much as possible, to counter these accusations. Shostakovich had enough sympathizers to complete the project and the opera premiered on January 18, 1930. It was halted after sixteen perfomances, and as a result of the intensifying campaign against the performer it would not be performed again in the Soviet Union until 1974. Nevertheless, “Shostakovich was inordinately fond of his first opera; he judged people by whether they were ‘for’ or ‘against’ it” (Fay 56).

The booklet is presumably also one of the last official mentions in Soviet print of Zamyatin. By the late 1920s, the author of the famous dystopian novel “We” was constantly attacked in the press and from 1930–1988 his writing was not published. In 1931, after petitioning Stalin himself, he was granted permission to emigrate. KVK, OCLC show only the copy at the Slonimsky Collection at the Library of Congress.