When I first saw that Opera Boston would be putting on a production of The Nose, my immediate thought was "Well, I must see that. After all, how many opportunities come along to see The Nose?" When the Metropolitan Opera announced that they too would be staging The Nose next season, I was relieved that I would get the chance to see it in Boston and not have to feel the pressure to travel down to New York to see it. After all, there are at least a dozen can't possibly miss productions being put on by the Met next season (inevitably, half of which I will miss) and any opportunity to get my fix locally saves me time and money and no small amount of psychological well-being (for example, my compensation for not getting to see Renee and Stephanie in the Rusalka which had its season premiere tonight in New York, is seeing it later this month at the Boston Lyric).
Minor miscalculation. My immediate thought upon leaving the opera house last Tuesday after seeing The Nose was "I simply must see it at the Met next year. After all, how many opportunities come along to see The Nose?" Especially in two different productions within a year's time.
It was an absolutely delightful evening at the opera. The slight criticism of Opera Boston that I had the first time I attended one of their productions (Der Freischütz earlier this season)--the cheapness of the sets and the slightly campy/vulgar acting--absolutely works for The Nose. The music was interesting. Let me just say right off the bat that I am not a fan of new music: by new music I don't mean modern music, but music I haven't heard before. I generally enjoy an opera after I get to know the music first. Even such gorgeously lyrical operas like Madama Butterfly and Le nozze di Figaro sounded ugly to me the first time I heard them. The first time I ever attended a Lucia, I generally had a miserable experience (I also wasn't feeling good that day), but now I will go to every Lucia I have the opportunity to go to because I love it so much now. The same goes for nearly every favorite of mine: Eugene Onegin, Salome, the list goes on.
I did not have this problem with The Nose. The music just worked for me from the beginning. I don't think that I will be jamming down the freeway with this music blaring through my car stereo any time soon or even ever. It's just too non-tonal and non-lyrical I think to be enjoyed in that way, but as a part of the complete theatrical experience, it is brilliant and witty (I'm pretty sure I heard fart noises coming from the orchestra pit!).
One snag: no more than ten minutes into the opera, the music suddenly stopped and a voice came from the orchestra pit (it took me half a second to realise this was not part of the opera, it was in English). "We apologize for stopping the opera, folks, but all the lights just went out in the orchestra pit!" The only character on-stage at this time was the Barber (Vladimir Matorin) who kind of hammed it up a bit to the delight of the audience, and no more than two minutes later, the opera resumed.
A note on the players: Stephen Salters starred as Kovalyov and was quite effective. But I think that the audience favorites, in addition to Matorin, were Frank Kelley who played the Police Inspector brilliantly and with great humor, and Yeghishe Manucharyan as Ivan the Lackey, also very funny. Some of the loudest applause (and the only one to also get some loud whoops from a certain section of the Mezzanine) was Sol Kim Bentley who played the pretzel seller with enough sexiness to win over some lusty fans (especially from a certain section of the Mezzanine). A nice touch near the end of ACT III in which a "prominant citizen" or "celebrity" (that seems to be how they translated it) appears on stage and turns out to be none other than the young Shostakovich himself.
All in all, a successful evening. I very much now want to know how the Met will approach this work. I doubt if they will be this campy, but it would be interesting to see how another production team interprets it.