The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD – Shostakovich’s The Nose

The Nose, Op.15 – Opera in three acts and ten scenes to a libretto by the composer, with Evgeny Zamyatin, Georgy Ionin, and Alexander Preis, based on the short story by Gogol [sung in Russian with English subtitles]

Collegiate Assessor Kovalyov – Paulo Szot
Police Inspector – Andrey Popov
The Nose – Alexander Lewis
Ivan Yakovlevich, a barber – Vladimir Ognovenko
Praskovya Osipovna, his wife / Pretzel vendor – Claudia Waite
District Constable – Grigory Soloviov
Ivan, Kovalyov’s servant – Sergei Skorokhodov
Footman – Brian Kontes
Newspaper Clerk – James Courtney
Doctor – Gennady Bezzubenko
Yaryzhkin, the confidante – Adam Klein
Pelageya Grigorievna Podtochina – Barbara Dever
Her daughter – Ying Fang
et al

Chorus, Ballet & Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera
Pavel Smelkov

William Kentridge – Production
William Kentridge & Luc De Wit – Stage directors
William Kentridge & Sabine Theunissen – Set designers
Greta Goiris – Costume designer
Catherine Meyburgh – Video compositor & editor
Urs Schönebaum – Lighting designer

Gary Halvorson – Cinema Director

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 26 October, 2013
Venue: Renoir Cinema, The Brunswick, London WC1

A scene from Shostakovich's The Nose with Paulo Szot as Kovalyov.Photograph: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera. Taken at the Metropolitan Opera on September 14, 2013Seeing The Nose at all was an opera in itself. My tickets were arranged for Cinema 1 in the Barbican Centre. All was fine. But all seemed less good come the start-time of 5.55 p.m. (it was a matinee in New York City) – we were not being allowed in! Something was up. Then a matter-of-fact announcement was made that the showing was cancelled due to the loss of the satellite signal. Further investigation reveals that the problem had started an hour earlier. So why was no mention made then for people to perhaps seek an alternative venue? Such a question is now stardust and candyfloss, but I was very fortunate that Ginny Macbeth (the Met’s UK publicist) was there, knows the cinema map for the Met like the back of her hand, has a car, and we were off into the night to the Renoir. Was the problem Barbican-only or country-wide? Time, and negotiating roadworks, would give us the answer.

It seems that the lack of reception was exclusive to the Barbican because the Renoir was doing just fine and happily showing the Live HD relay. The Nose had already slipped off Kovalyov’s face and was doing its own thing, the cause of numerous sightings, banner headlines and advertisements, and much distress for the hapless Kovalyov; we had missed about 25 minutes of the opera. So, with Elizabeth Barnette’s review of the first night already filed here, and Mark Valencia’s preview written especially for this very broadcast, if sadly missed by the Barbican’s clientele – links below – let me just give a few observations.

Paulo Szot as Kovalyov & Andrey Popov as the Police Inspector in Shostakovich's The Nose. Photograph: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera. Taken at the Metropolitan Opera on September 14, 2013This was the last performance in the current run of The Nose, and called Pavel Smelkov to the podium instead of Valery Gergiev. Hopefully William Kentridge’s spectacular production will return to the Met, or may we have a DVD please? It is remarkably inventive and imaginative, and if in the Renoir Cinema the sound is a little diffuse – but, mercy me, not overloud if only reasonably dynamic – one could still tell the seasoned and superb playing of the Met Orchestra as Smelkov guided it through Shostakovich’s madcap, sometimes cacophonous, but often touching score, amazing for a 22-year-old and already with his DNA stamped all the way through it: clearly waiting in the wings were Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (the second Macbeth in this review!) and the Fourth Symphony, both to fall foul of Stalin.

Gogol’s story is complex and surreal, and Shostakovich’s music serves it well in a wide variety of absorbed and advanced styles, dazzling in its personality and accomplishment. And no praise is too high for this production’s stagecraft (the graphics, projections, newsreels, costumes and choreography) and the performers’ formidable execution, all totally inside their roles, not least Paulo Szot who has much to do and did it unstintingly and with total conviction. The final scene, when Kovalyov has his protuberance returned to him, was ecstatic. There is much for the eye and the ear to take in. Gary Halvorson’s direction for the cinema was well-judged, and the picture quality was good. I would love to see it again. I now leave you to my colleagues to fill in the gaps.

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