Monday, March 8, 2010

William Kentridge: 'The Nose'

William Kentridge talks about his new production of Shostakovich's opera. (Video courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera)

By ANTHONY TOMMASINI, Published: March 6, 2010

It has become commonplace at the Metropolitan Opera for directors and designers of new productions, especially modernist high-concept ones, to be lustily booed by a sizable contingent of the audience during opening-night ovations.

But on Friday night, when the Met introduced its production of Shostakovich’s early opera “The Nose,” based on the Gogol short story, the South African artist William Kentridge, who directed this production, helped design the sets and created the videos that animate the staging, received the heartiest bravos.

For the most part I shared this enthusiasm, though the bustling stage action and the busyness of the video elements are often distracting. Still, Mr. Kentridge belongs at the Met. As the company’s general manager, Peter Gelb has made it a priority to recruit directors from theater and film. With Mr. Kentridge, whose work can now be seen in an extensive exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, Mr. Gelb has brought in a major visual artist. Stop-action animation and theatrical design are central to Mr. Kentridge’s work, and he has unleashed his imagination on Shostakovich’s bitterly satirical and breathless opera.