Jaw-dropping: The Nose at ROH
Well, when we found ourselves staring, jaw agape, at a line of gigantic tap-dancing noses, there was no other option but to guffaw.
Barrie Kosky, Intendant and Artistic Director of the Komische Oper Berlin, makes an unforgettable debut at the Royal Opera House, with his ingenious production of Shostakovich's The Nose. Klaus Grünberg's set is a stark, concave version of a blank slate (leaving room for everything and anything), and Buki Shiff's costumes are eye-popping creations of impressive imagination; the look of the show is brought to hilarious proportions with Otto Pichler's bizarre choreography.
Kosky's The Nose starts with the surreal and drives it to impossible proportions. One scene of insanity after another tells the equally weird story of Collegiate Assessor Platon Kuzmitch Kovalov, who wakes up one morning to find his nose missing. Austrian bass-baritone Martin Winkler was extraordinary as Kovalov, a role debut; the heroic boom in his sound seems almost a moot point, since his work was an exhaustive combination of voice, body, and Kosky's fantastical aesthetic. Everything about Winkler was oversized, too much, utterly ridiculous - and it was completely addictive.
David Pountney's English translation of the original Russian felt a seamless addition to this production; he incorporated site-specific, almost Gilbert-and-Sullivan-like lines ("No rubbish in the pit!"), and there seemed no disconnect between what we saw and what we heard.
Winkler was the clear star of the show, yet the performances by bass John Tomlinson, mezzo-soprano Rosie Aldridge, and tenors Alexander Kravets and Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke were hilarious, and musically impressive. The Nose - particularly in Kosky's production - is truly an ensemble opera, and every single detail felt part of a curious world, one hard to describe, yet perfectly recognizable. The dancers, the Royal Opera House Chorus, even the curious balalaika player in exaggerated traditional costume - it was completely, delightfully, ridiculous.
The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, under the triumphant direction of maestro Ingo Metzmacher, deserved an enthusiastic ovation. They were a group of characters unto themselves, a troupe of soloists delighting in Shostakovich's ear-bending, otherworldly sounds. That percussion solo scene...only the word "wow" will do.
Make time to see this show before it closes on November 9. The final performance of The Nose will be live-streamed via The Opera Platform, November 9, 7:30pm GMT, and will be available to stream for one month on catch-up. Kosky's The Nose an opera experience that's one-of-a-kind.