I was able to borrow a copy of Alfred Schnittke's Life with an Idiot from my local library and was simply amazed at this opera. The story, in so far as there is a comprehensible one, is told twice, and the whole thing is just about the most grotesque, brutal, and absorbing post-war opera I have yet heard. Mstislav Rostropovich outdoes himself conducting the work, and playing the solo cello and piano (!) parts. Sound is top-notch.
Like much Schnittke, the music is all over the place, displaying influences ranging from the Baroque to Shostakovich (with direct quotes) and beyond. This is no mere pastiche, though; it is an incredible mix of modernism, both musical and literary. I've listened to it twice and will need to listen to it four or five times more to "get it," or at least all of it. I'm sure that if I spoke Russian I would more fully understand it since some things are obviously lost in translation.
Story? Well, um, "I" is punished by the Party by being forced to live with an Idiot of his choosing from the local nut house. He chooses Vova (Lenin's nickname, and the character looks like Lenin) and takes him home to "Wife." All sorts of hilarity ensues, including an affair between Vova and Wife, an affair between Vova and I, and finally the decapitation murder of Wife. There's much more to it, including choral singing - both mixed and "homosexual" - and a few brief singing appearances by Marcel Proust! An interesting plot device is that Vova can say but one word: Ekh. He sings it over and over in a variety of settings. Hmm? A Lenin-esque figure speaking only jibberish? A critique? Nah. It is all very odd. Like I said, it will take a few more listens to absorb it all. Clearly, this is satirical and allegorical, and I just love it.
The bad news: it has been deleted. Not even MDT or amazon.de have it. I shall scour local CD huts and see if I can