Impoverished Chartkov (Paul Nixon) compromises his artistic integrity and purchases, rather than paints, a portrait. rnaturally this prompts an improvement in his finances and political connections at the cost of his creative abilities.
Nixon’s towering central performance gives us a character who enjoys his own corruption. This contrasts with Nicholas Sharratt’s tormented lamplighter who tries to retain some honour and sense of purpose other than achieving monetary success.
David Pountney directs with imagination and style modernising Gogol’s original satire on Stalinist Russia to take-in Gaddafi ,Warhol and Hirst. He populates the stage with grotesques whose physical appearance reflects their pretensions. Designer Dan Porta, in his debut with Opera North, creates a nightmarish background for the opera. He sets the scene on a garish artist’s palette and his costumes exaggerate the physical attributes of the cast to indicate their true nature.
Although the production is exciting the music by Miecyslaw Weinberg fails to make a connection with the audience. Ranging from tonal to cacophony the score serves as background to the action rather than becoming an integral part of the show – which would be fine in a drama but is a failing in opera.
This is a very good production of a mediocre opera.