Friday, March 12, 2010

Who Nose ?

I'm still not sure that I understand what Shostakovich's The Nose is all about, but the Met Opera's production, which I attended last night, offered the audience another installment in the re-making of the company in the Peter Gelb era.

The production design, led and co-created by multimedia artist William Kentridge, is the talk of the town, and deservedly so. No matter one's view of its esthetic and effectiveness, the set, lighting, costumes, and video were so much in our faces for every moment of the nearly two hour non-stop performance that they almost overwhelmed the orchestra and singers. Some of the critics have upbraided the Met for this imbalance; I decided I was willing to go with the flow and let the performance take me where it wanted to go.

As I sat in my ($175--ouch !) seat last night and watched the detached large-scale paper machier nose of the protagonist scurry back and forth across the stage, it brought to mind the hysterical sequence in Woody Allen's Sleeper, in which the characters played by Allen and Diane Keaton attempt to clone a replacement for the assassinated Leader using the only body part which survived the detonation: his nose. Their nose, like the Met's, travels here and yon and bounces around in precarious circumstances, ending, in the Met's case, by being pocketed by a police official and returned to its rightful owner.

OK, so the whole thing was absurd and comical. And, luckily for us, the Met played it completely over the top. I felt a little restless during the last half hour, but mostly mesmerized by the stunning Russian Suprematist inspired production elements and the music.

Gelb is off to a great start at the Met. Not every production has worked, of course. But for the first time in years, the stale old warhorses are being put to pasture. Given the option of going backward to the reliable old stand-by's or lurching into new territory like we saw last night, my choice is clear: I pick The Nose.

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