The contemporary opera “The Nose,” by the Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich, is the second live Metropolitan Opera high-definition broadcast of the season, showing at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge on Saturday at 11 a.m.
The story is based on a mid-19th century satirical short story by Nikolai Gogol and tells the story of a St. Petersburg official whose nose leaves his face to pursue a life of its own.
This 90-minute opera in three acts without an intermission traces the collegiate assessor Kovalyov (sung by baritone Paulo Szot) in pursuit of his nose after he awakens one morning to discover it to be missing, having visited his barber, Yakovlevich, the day before. Kovalyov first sees his nose in a local cathedral, transformed into life size, dressed in a paper machete puppet costume, playing the role of a state councilor. Now of such high rank, “The Nose” refuses to interact with its lower-class owner.
Kavalyov next appears in the police office and then at the newspaper, attempting without success to get assistance in recapturing his nose. In Act III, rumors have spread that the nose is on the loose in the city, and people rush about to catch a glimpse of it. The police arrive and attempt to restore order.
At a railway station on the outskirts of the city, the nose enters running, trying to stop the train. Everyone is in pursuit. The nose is finally arrested, beaten back to its normal size, wrapped in a piece of paper and returned to Kavalyov. After several unsuccessful attempts to replace his nose, Kavalyov awakens the next morning to find it again attached.
South African artist William Kentridge makes his Metropolitan debut as stage director and designer of this production. Except for the lead roles, several dozen people with short solo roles portray the escapades of mid-19th century czarist Russia. Kendrige uses a montage of projected background visual effects in sync with the music and stage actions — animations, super-imposed graphics, collages and images from the Soviet archives — to better portray Soviet society as described in Gogol’s story. The traditional opera fan, steeped in the flowing melodies and bel-canto singing of operas by Verdi, Puccini and Mozart, may find the adjustment to Schostakovich’s discordant music, with its pulsing, reedy woodwinds, snarling brasses and steely percussion, a bit difficult to assimilate. Yet, in a recent New York Times review, this production was described as “a wildly colorful and imaginative staging — a nonstop hour and a half of ingenious, delirious mayhem.”
As the three acts of this opera are performed in 95 minutes without an intermission, a snack lunch with beverages will be served after the final curtain call. Space has been reserved in one of the classrooms, where seating at tables will provide a space for lunch and for individuals to express in open discussion the staging and music of this opera.