As Don Giovanni, he played the evil, exalted clown; as the young Onegin, he poisoned his own luck in love – now ensemble member Günter Papendell reveals another facet to his skill: as the vain, noseless collegiate assessor Kovalev in Dmitri Shostakovich’s idiosyncratic musical adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s grotesque and absurd story. Following its run in Sydney, Barrie Kosky’s celebrated début production at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden is now coming to Berlin.
One beautiful morning after a night of drinking, the collegiate assessor Kovalev discovers to his horror that he has lost his nose. He despairingly sets off in search of it. Permanent noselessness would mean social ruin for him! He believes he has encountered his nose in the cathedral, yet cannot persuade it to remain with him. Mocked and derided by all, Kovalev chases the suddenly independent bodypart as if in a nightmare, yet never gets his hands on it. His nose is finally returned to him in person by the Chief of Police – yet it does not want to stay on his face! After another series of humiliating experiences, the stubborn facial protrusion returns to its proper place as suddenly as it disappeared – where it will hopefully stay.
Tap-dancing noses, riding rickshaw tables, colourful costumes somewhere between folklore and historicism in a cold room which, despite its size, seems claustrophobic – Barrie Kosky stages the surreal story about the fear of loss and the paranoia of a small-minded upstart as a revue-like kaleidoscope of vanities, a disturbing blend of Wozzeck and Alice in Wonderland.