Music and Vision homepage Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller

 

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One of the highlights of the second-half of this show is the appearance of the Doctor. Kovalyov's nose has been restored to him but it doesn't seem to want to stick back on. The very wonderful Paul Featherstone as Ivan (Kovalyov's servant), who has an inimitable way with the extended response of 'Yeeeeeesssssss!' to his master's summons, is sent to procure a physician. Simon Wilding appears with a stove-pipe hat larger than the average Isambard Kingdom Brunel and exposes himself as an utterly corrupt charlatan. There's a lot of fun with easy sexual innuendo as he twiddles, pendulum-like, with his belt and asks whether 'the rest of your anatomy is functioning normally.' There's a new level of surrealism here as the doc pockets loadsamoney for nothing -- akin to the episode in the first act where a newspaper editor refuses to accept a 'lost & found' announcement about the nose because he doesn't want his publication to get a reputation for printing 'unlikely' stories ... (Hahaha to the 'Red Tops'!) Gogol and Shostakovich's point about corruption is funny and disturbing -- as it still is today -- time and transit notwithstanding.

Simon Wilding as The Doctor (top) with Jeremy Huw Williams as Kovalyov. Photo © 2006 Alastair Muir
Simon Wilding as The Doctor (top) with Jeremy Huw Williams as Kovalyov. Photo © 2006 Alastair Muir

The nose gets restored ('how' is an absurdist mystery -- why would you want a logical explanation?) Kovalyov has escaped the attentions of the Podtochinas (Aileen Sim and Sinead Campbell again) who would have him as a bridegroom if they could. The wonderful chief of police has pursued his Punch & Judy truncheon-freedom as much as he can in this case. Kovalyov knows that it's his own nose that has been returned to him because the pimple is still on the left side. The barber (who claims to have washed his hands rather more industriously) goes about his business again. And our not-quite-hero nor anti-such wanders down the Nevsky Prospect blowing kisses hither and thither. He is redeemed for another lifetime of nonsense and nothingness. As Gogol wrote, 'Oh have no faith in this Nevsky Prospekt ... It is all deception, a dream, nothing is what it seems ...' But this seems more than good to me ...

Jeremy Huw Williams as Kovalyov. Photo © 2006 Alastair Muir
Jeremy Huw Williams as Kovalyov. Photo © 2006 Alastair Muir

 

Copyright © 23 May 2006 David Wilkins, Eastbourne UK

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Shostakovich's opera The Nose (1927-8, first performed 1930 in Leningrad) is based on Gogol's classic satire of the same name. The Opera Group's 2006 production was created in collaboration with Haymarket Basingstoke and ROH2 at London's Royal Opera House. The performance reviewed took place on Wednesday 17 May at Theatre Royal, Brighton, UK, as part of the Brighton Festival.

There are further performances at Poole (6 June), Buxton (9, 14 and 19 July), Lichfield (11 July) and Linbury at the Royal Opera House, London (25, 27 and 28 July 2006). Details from www.theoperagroup.co.uk

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