W h en Barrie Kosky discovered Shostakovich’s first opera The Noseit was “love at first hearing”. He was a student at Melbourne University when he came upon it through his fascination with the work of Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. Having read and relished Gogol’s satirical play The Government Inspector,he quickly moved on to short stories like The Overcoatand The Nose(which was written between 1835 and 1836).

Barrie Kosky. Photo: Jan Windszus

“I’d actually read Gogol’s The Nosebefore I discovered the opera and then when I discovered there was an opera about it, I was doubly excited,” recalls Kosky. “And then because I love Shostakovich, it was sort of like tick, tick, tick. At that stage I was devouring Shostakovich, all the quartets and all the piano works and all the symphonies, so it was just a love at first sight, or first hearing. But then, of course, I realised people were unlikely to hear a production in Australia because of the casting [the opera has 78 sung roles and nine spoken parts, requiring around 30 soloists].”

Even back then though, he knew that one day...