The Nose is really one of those pieces that defies description. Its manic and fun and full of invention, both a trifle about nothing, that also at the same time, makes it clear that beyond the absurd tale, there is indeed deeper ideas afoot. Not that they all appear in one quick sitting, but complexities certainly there are.
To start with, I have to say, this is one of the busiest productions I have ever seen. The height of the Met Opera theatre stage is taken advantage of in many ways. William Kentridge's staging from the outset does not attempt to treat this story naturalistically, with scenic elements that only appear as they are needed. Kovalyov's bedroom, the barber's room, the pressroom, the police station. They were all suggested, rather than depicted fully, and always skewed, or indeed, bent as if in a surrealist painting. But, that added to the sense of a world gone mad, helping this seemingly light fancy on its way, inviting the watcher to pick up other thoughts thrown out along the way.
But, yet, everything about the plot happened, there was no attempt to ignore the story, rather the non realistic sets made the characters more real, helped the performers build a sense of other, that worked in this mess of a morality tale gone awry. Yet, tho messy, there was clearly a firm hand on the direction. Everything linked back to the central story and fed from it. Constant projections onto walls showed the passage of the Nose as it travelled around while free, or words from what was sung, or pieces of text that gave the sense of newspaper reports, the breathless sort that the tale would generate.
So, to the singers. First of all, dominating over the whole plot, the man with no nose, Kovalyov, was played by Paulo Szot, in what should be a career defining performance, if he was not already well known for being the Emille that made South Pacific popular again a few years ago. Here, he shows himself far more than the good looking French seducer (indeed, it is hard to imagine a less likely role to follow Emille Debecque with than this one, while staying in fach) Truly, this is one of those roles that dominates everything else. He brought us a vision of a man totally lost in his world, with his circumstances turned upside down, and did it convincingly, while singing beautifully. In honesty, his was the only performance that really mattered, it all stood or fell on his shoulders. Needless to say, it stood up, and tap danced!!
Not to say that no other performance was good, far from it. But, after Kovalyov, you then have His Servant Ivan, the Police constable, the barber and the Podtochina's, with the rest all being cameo roles who appear for one scene, then disappear into the crazy ensemble. Really, no performer stood out, as bad or good, tho for sheer madness, the pretzel seller will remain in memory, as a good example of how to make a crazy outfit work.
But ultimately, this production is all Paulo's, (and the directors) I will leave you with some of his work from it. Feel free to click on the link below if you want to see who else featured (all were good btw)
Full cast list from the Met Archives