Composed by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conducted by Valery Gergiev
Directed by William Kentridge
Starring Paulo Szot, Andrei Popov, Gordon Gietz
March 5-25, 2010
Based on a allegorical short story by Nikolai Gogol, Dmitri Shostakovich’s first opera The Nose follows a minor Russian bureaucrat who awakes to find that his proboscis is not only gone, but has begun seeking out better “friends” like higher-ups in the party, evading attempts at subduing, capturing and returning him to Kovalyov.
But could he repeat that success at the Met with different musicians and singers? Partly, yes; perhaps due to the unavoidably episodic nature of The Nose onstage, the opera doesn’t hang together as well as it does when you listen to a recording, where you can imagine the perfect staging of your own. Gergiev harnesses the power of the forces of the Met Opera Orchestra and Chorus with his usual vigorousness—if anything, the percussion clashes pound more than on the CD—but he’s ultimately at the mercy of William Kentridge’s hit-or-miss production.
Kentridge, a South African artist who multi-media work is currently in vogue (there’s a related exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art right now), has certainly created an eye-popping visual experience to explain—or obscure, as the case may be—The Nose. From the start, Kentridge displays a welcome and tongue-in-cheek sleight of hand needed for this relentlessly risible story. But he pushes too far, often repeating his best bits (shadowy silhouettes that become Shostakovich or Stalin) and simply overdoing the extravagant visualization of the story, particularly when a man-size nose—with legs, for some reason—takes over.
The set’s paper-mache look mirrors a world that’s crumbling in front of Kovalyov’s very eyes, and the non-stop parade of projections are often witty—the surtitles are shown on the stage itself, sometimes obscuring readability—though Kentridge ends up recycling old tricks more to more until the limp finale.
Making his Met debut, Tony-winning South Pacific heartthrob Paulo Szot acquits himself marvelously as our hero Kovalyov, singing what sounds like authentic Russian in an extremely taxing role while climbing around, on and through Kentridge’s surrealistic set. Szot’s athleticism, combined with his innate musicality, makes this production a winner by a nose.
originally posted on timessquare.com