Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What does The Nose mean?

Well, it depends.

The Nose the story/opera means a bunch of things, not least of which is the (extremely funny, in this case) reduction of man when social leverage continues to have its bite despite and because of the utter failure of rationality. That this may not be far from the true experience of Russian life -- whether in the 1830s, 1930s, or today -- is of course the point.

The Nose the William Kentridge production means, well, another bunch of things, but not least "in the beginning was the word", as public scenes of cathedral, newspaper office, and railway station are quite literally rendered from their essential texts (Bible, newsprint, and train schedules respectively). On top of this architectural language are more unruly tangles of words: borrowed, assembled, made up; in Russian, English, and a mix; texts, slogans, piled on top of graphics and each other -- and even costumes -- exhilaratingly to animate the visual face of the production. Having subtitles visible onstage (or on a little ledge below the main action) here was a neat further bit of word overflow, the opposite of Patrice Chereau's lazy/willful non-adaptation to the house for the earlier Janacek.

The Nose the first truly crossover-audience hit of the Gelb regime means, perhaps, that the outreach and cross-marketing to other culture-consumption segments -- kicked off at the very start of his tenure -- has begun to pay off. Not having a moviecast and subsequent video version was an odd outcome, however: with the production heading off to be re-mounted in France, the media cash-in may fall to another company. But perhaps the Met's retained exclusive video rights for the show's inevitable revival.

I also, as it turned out, agreed with everything in the earlier guest review.

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Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.