A Dog's Heart
Music by Raskatov
Libretto by Mazzonis after Bulgakov
Scene 1 A stray dog bemoans his life in two different voices. His hatred of humans, who have mistreated him and deprived him of food, torments him as much as his life on the street, exposed to the elements. He begins to hallucinate as soon as a man offers him a piece of sausage. Allowing himself to be bribed with the sausage, he is led to a place he believes will be a dog’s paradise. Even though he is emaciated, the man calls him ‘Sharik’ (‘Little Ball’).
Scene 2 Sharik finds himself in the apartment of Professor Filipp Filippovich, who explains to his assistant Dr Bormenthal that you can achieve more with kindness than with terror. Zina, the maid, admits the patients for their consultations. The professor is apparently something of a miracle worker: one patient is endowed with unbridled sexual potency, another has been totally rejuvenated. The dog is unable to keep his critical observations to himself.
Scene 3 Four representatives from the house committee visit the professor to tell him his apartment is too large: seven rooms are too many and he will have to give up one of them. Filipp Filippovich refuses to co-operate, and he immediately telephones the Big Boss to say he has decided to leave Moscow for good. The Big Boss asks to have a word with Shvonder, the committee’s spokesman; soon thereafter the committee withdraws empty-handed.
Scene 4 The professor and Bormenthal sit down to a meal of exquisite delicacies. Every now and then a scrap comes Sharik’s way. Meanwhile, the proletarian songs of the house committee can be heard. The professor seriously considers leaving Moscow. Sharik fears that his new life is only a dream.
Scene 5 Sharik’s hardships appear to be a thing of the past. He eats heartily, while the cook Darya and doorman Fyodor abandon themselves to other bodily pleasures. Fyodor, too, seems to have undergone a rejuvenation cure.
Scene 6 The professor has just been given the testicles and pituitary gland of a recently deceased man. Hasty preparations are made for an operation. Sharik realizes that these activities are directed at him. Should he make a run for it? But what good is freedom . . . He is anaesthetized with ether and the procedure is carried out. For a moment the dog’s life is in danger, but they manage to save him.
Scene 7 After the operation, Bormenthal confesses that the implantation of the pituitary gland does not lead to rejuvenation, but to humanization. Sharik’s condition worsens at first, but he then makes a sound and steady recovery. First he loses his fur, he no longer barks, and he gains weight. He laughs, his tail falls off. Eventually he can stand upright, and begins to talk and smoke. He is also quick to master the art of profanity. The dog Sharik has been transformed into the man Sharikov. This sensational news spreads like wildfire, and crowds throng the streets to witness the new creature. Pravda confirms that it is not a Martian. Anyone caught spreading false rumours will be punished. The end of the world is at hand.
Scene 8 Filipp Filippovich is suffering from nightmares. He feels that he has to justify himself to his colleagues. But then all the professors join in Sharikov’s bawdy song. Filipp Filippovich is shocked at the debauched behaviour of his fellow scientists.
Scene 9 Shvonder accuses the professor of hiding an illegitimate son. Sharikov does indeed insist on calling his creator ‘Dad’, which Filipp Filippovich cannot bear. Moreover, Sharikov refuses to abide by the general mores of human civilization. He does, however, demand to be recognized as a human: in order to have an identity, he needs documents.
Scene 10 Shvonder likewise urges the professor to draw up a certificate for Sharikov officially confirming his existence. Sharikov goes in wild pursuit of a cat who has managed to sneak into the doctor’s office. He locks himself in the bathroom, turns on the taps and floods the entire apartment. Consulting hours have to be cancelled. Sharikov is afraid the professor will punish him; he only wanted to teach the cat a lesson, as she had eaten all the meatballs.
Scene 11 While the house committee meets, Sharikov, Bormenthal and the professor hit the vodka. After a couple of glasses Sharikov gets involved in a political argument. All property should be redistributed. Sharikov wants his own apartment. The professor, however, already has other plans.
Scene 12 Bormenthal fears that Sharikov’s behaviour will ruin the professor. He suggests killing him, but the professor refuses. There is, however, no way that Sharikov will become a decent person. How could such a good-natured dog turn into such a cur of a man? The professor acknowledges the danger that the Sharikovs of the world will multiply and destroy everything in their path.
Scene 13 Sharikov has got himself a job: he has been hired by the Moscow municipal sanitation department to rid the city of its stray cats.
Scene 14 Sharikov is proud of his new employment. He introduces the professor to his fiancée, a secretary at the sanitation department. Filipp Filippovich manages to convince her that Sharikov’s career is based entirely on lies and that he used to be a dog. Disillusioned, the fiancée abandons him. Sharikov is adamant about his right to a woman. Does having once been a dog mean he has no civil liberties at all?
Scene 15 The Big Boss pays a visit to the professor. He wants to warn him that Sharikov has filed charges against Filipp Filippovich, claiming he had threatened to kill Shvonder for counter-revolutionary activities and intent to burn political writings. The professor, however, is fortunate that he is now a celebrity.
Scene 16 Bormenthal and the professor decide to evict Sharikov from the apartment. When he resists, they tie him up. The practice is quickly shut in order to perform a second operation.
Epilogue The police arrive at Filipp Filippovich’s house; he is suspected of murdering the sanitation department’s chief of stray animal elimination. ‘The dog that was transformed into a man?’ asks the professor, innocently. The talking dog hasn’t been murdered at all. Nor has anyone ever succeeded in turning an animal into a human. When the detective sees the dog, he faints. This Sharikov may have had his day, but the world can never rid itself of its countless Sharikovs.
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