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‘The Nose’ knows when it’s a William Kentridge creation
The label “genius” is applied far too easily these days, but it is unquestionably applicable when talking about William Kentridge, the South African artist of Lithuanian Jewish descent who is known for his remarkable charcoal drawings, his complex, multi-media stop-motion animated films, and his work as both a designer and director of grand-scale puppet theater pieces and opera.
Born in Johannesburg, where he still lives and works (his father, the renowned trial lawyer Sydney Kentridge, supported many anti-apartheid causes), Kentridge has had two major exhibitions at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art (in 2006 and 2009). And if you happen to be in New York between now and May 11, his five-channel video installation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “The Refusal of Time,” is hypnotic, not-to-be-missed viewing, probing everything from the history of science and humanism to the quandaries of colonialism and globalization, all in the most eye-popping, highly theatrical ways.
All this is a prelude to yet another recommendation — the “Great Performances at the Met” presentation of “The Nose,” the comic Shostakovich opera (based on a story by Nikolai Gogol, the 19th century Russian absurdist and satirist) for which he devised both the dazzling direction and innovative design.
First staged at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 2010, this revival of the work (already seen live in movie theaters as part of the groundbreaking The Met: Live in HD series) will be telecast from 2:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m Feb. 23 on WTTW-TV-Channel 11. It will star Paulo Szot (Tony Award winner for his performance in the Lincoln Center revival of “South Pacific”) as Kovalyov, the hapless bureaucrat who awakes one morning to discover that his nose has run away. Andrey Popov plays the the menacing Police Inspector, and Alexander Lewis plays Kovalyov’s peripatetic nose. Pavel Smelkov conducts. Soprano Patricia Racette hosts the broadcast.
One final note: Kentridge is set to direct and design a new production of Alban Berg’s “Lulu” for the Met in 2015.