Covent Garden, London
October 20, 2016
Chaos reigned last night at the Royal Opera House during the opening of Barrie Kosky’s production of Shostakovich’s opera The Nose. The conductor shouted at the singers, “audience members” walked out and ushers hovered in crowd control mode. This state of affairs is unusual in most productions but the conceit is essential when Kosky is at the helm. It was sublime.
The Noseis rarely performed and it is obvious why. There are eighty named solo parts, a chorus of singers and dancers and huge orchestral forces needed. Also, the opera is it not exactly guaranteed box office. However, this audacious risk paid off handsomely. Kosky is a master when it comes to pulling together seemingly impossible demands and making them work in a glorious romp which miraculously left room for surprisingly quiet and moving moments.
At one level Gogal’s short story upon which the libretto is based is quite absurd. A minor bureaucrat, Platon Kuzmich Kovalev (magnificently portrayed by Martin Winkler), wakes up to find his nose missing. Enjoying its new found freedom, the nose explores St. Petersburg while Platon chases round the city trying to find his missing appendage. What the story also reveals is...