|The Nose, The Royal Opera © ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper|
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Oct 19 2016
Shostakovich's satirical opera re-invented as highly theatrical vaudeville
|Martin Winkler - The Nose © ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper|
Performed in David Pountney's new English translation (at times more of a version rather than strict translation) with a stellar cast including Martin Winkler, Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke, John Tomlinson, Rosie Aldridge, Susan Bickley and Ailish Tynan, the opera was conducted by Ingo Metzmacher. Sets and lighting were by Klaus Grünberg with Anne Kuhn as associate director, costumes by Buki Shiff and choreography by Otto Pichler.
The absurdist short story by Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852) is a satire on Russian society and Shostokovich's opera, using a variety of Gogol stories as source materials, extends this. Though the libretto is ostensibly a satire on the Russia of Tsar Alexander I (reigned 1801-1823), it is allied to music of such startling modernity that it is clear that Shostakovich had his sights on contemporary Soviet society.
Shostakovich's score is a musical twin to the modernism which swept artistic Russia in the 10 years following the revolution before the repressions of Stalin took over. By the time the opera came to be performed this was already starting to be felt, and the piece was dropped after 16 performances, not to be performed again in Russia until 1974.
Barrie Kosky had come up with an anarchic vaudeville, two hours (the three acts play without a break) of organised chaos which mirrored Shostakovich's score.