On The Nose

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 noseThe 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.

3 thoughts on “On The Nose

  1. I saw this in the house twice–once in 2010 and again two weeks ago. I went to see it the second time because I was the only person on the planet who didn’t like the production. I disliked it even more the second time around. I know Kentridge is some kind of genius artist but his art just doesn’t do anything for me. I found the whole thing too fenzied and distracting–once and a while I would actually like to concentrate on the music and performance instead of being constantly bombarded with all these images. I am kind of dreading his production of Lulu (an opera I really do love) in 2016.

    • Interesting. The Lulu is a COC copro so we will see it too and rumour has long had it that Ambur Braid will sing the title role. I’m very fond of Ambur and think Lulu is just about the ideal role for her so I really do hope it’s good.

  2. Holy spoilerz! I’ve never seen Lulu and so, with great understatement, I’m looking forward to its return to the COC repertoire. Other commitments kept me from yesterday’s HD – I thought about seeing the reprise (if there is one) but now am a bit cautious – your description of the video direction makes it all sound a bit stomach-churning! Would like to hear this rarely-performed score though, so we’ll see. Too bad the HD season this year seems otherwise so cautious in terms of rep – especially when they’re doing Frau ohne schatten, Arabella and the like…why Aida and Tosca again, tin the same productions they were shown in so recently?

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