Today’s MetHD broadcast was Shostakovich’s absurdist opera The Nose based on a short story by Gogol. It’s about a bureaucrat whose nose falls off. The nose then gallivants around town impersonating a state councillor while the bureaucrat tries desperately to get it back. It’s a lovely Shostakovich score but honestly the one joke wears a bit thin when played out over two hours without an interval. Where’s a Soviet censor when one needs one?
The production, by South African artist William Kentridge, is interesting. For the most part the humans are corralled in quite small areas of the stage while rather good, but very busy, video projections play across pretty much the whole width and height of the stage. It seems to work very well and for the first half of the piece video director Gary Halvorson treated it with some respect. Unfortunately by half time his meds seemed to wear off and the second half saw ADD camera work superimposed on hyperkinetic videos. It left me with a bad headache. That wasn’t helped by the sound being louder than natural though much better than on some previous occasions.
The performances were excellent. There’s a large ensemble cast with one role, that of the bureaucrat Kovalyov, holding everything together. That central role was extremely well acted and sung by Paul Szot (not, as I originally thought, Paul Snot). The most notable feature across the board was the excellent Russian diction. As usual in Toronto, there were plenty of native speakers to confirm this. P. Smelnov conducted and made everything sound very Shostakovichian.
I would go see this again if I could see it in the house but really the video direction almost killed it.