We’re running to The Nose

We’re running to The Nose


norman lebrecht

October 15, 2013

Our New York operavores, Elizabeth Frayer and Shawn E Milnes, went to the Shostakovich opera on a special offer (there seem to be plenty of those about this season). Whaddaya know? They loved every dripping minute, especially the medicinal cough sweets.

Read them here.



(Reminder to Slipped Disc readers: Elizabeth Frayer and Shawn E Milnes are not professional critics. They are a young couple with a recent and fast-growing opera habit. We publish their fresh impressions as a counterweight to some of the wearier reviews that appear in print media.)


  • Natalia says:

    Mr. Lebrecht,

    “They are a young couple with a recent and fast-growing opera habit. We publish their fresh impressions as a counterweight to some of the wearier reviews that appear in print media”


    Exactly, thank you…. This is mainly why I always look forward to reading them.

    I personally get tired of James Jorden, Zachary Woolfe, Anthony Tommasini

    • Marshall says:

      I suppose anyone who puts Jorden in a row with the other two professional critics would find the “fresh impressions’ of these two well, fresh.

  • Daniel Farber says:

    They are to the opera world what the Tea Party is to US politics: they don’t know anything and are hell-bent on keeping it that way. NL’s insistence on publishing them reminds me of the Republican senator who defended one of Nixon’s ill-fated nominees to the US Supreme Court by saying that mediocrity deserves to represented!

    • John Kelly says:

      Shawn apparently was coughing and took the trouble, as he states, to pre-unwrap some lozenges and put them into a Ziploc bag. Now we know he’s a total amateur. Ziploc bags make more noise when you open them than unwrapping the lozenge in the first place. The approved technique is to wrap the lozenges in kleenex (the high end version). This is genuinely soundless. Of course, my bet is Shawn is a lozenge-cruncher, which is probably not soundless. Mind you, last time I heard Butterfly at the Met someone’s cellphone went off loudly as B was in her death throes………

      Since all pleas to Norman to stop publishing these impressions have fallen on deaf ears, and since apparently some people enjoy these posts, the rest of us will at least continue to be offered the opportunity to take the piss.

      • Michael says:

        These spoiled, arrogant and, so far as opera is concerned, pretty ignorant brats deserve much more than taking the piss, especially Shawn.

        He is ill enough – “bedridden leading up to the performance” – not to want to risk passing on whatever he has to his grandmother later that evening, but quite content to pass it onto his seated neighbours at the Met and anyone else he gets close to during the afternoon perforrmance. The viruses that cause bronchitis are easily passed to anyone in range of the sick person’s coughs or sneezes. Shawn seemed unconcerned about the prospect of passing on his germs or disturbing all those around him by repeated coughing. He actually “pre-unwraps” no less than 12 cough sweets (one for every 9 minutes of the opera) as he knows in advance that he was going to be “one of the coughing, twitchy, shifty people that I loathe sitting next to in the theatre”.

        Finally he is so dismissive of the effect that the cough had not only on his neighbours but also himself that he can actually joke about it: “There is one sung passage by The Nose apparently, but I missed it. No doubt I was coughing. My wretched lungs upstaged The Nose itself, curse them.”

        Am I angry at this selfish behaviour? You bet I am!

  • Paolo Szot came to us for Escamillo a few years ago, the Tony Award on his mantelpiece not yet in need of dusting. Wonderful man. While standing on a table talking to Carmen in the tavern scene I heard something I didn’t think actually existed outside of cheesy films and cartoons: one of the lady choristers sitting in on the rehearsal sighed audibly with romantic desire, her eyes bulging with lurv. His next port of call back then was the premiere of this production…

  • Tom C. says:

    Their sophomoric scribblings also serve as a counterweight to the good writing one can read elsewhere. I suppose that’s one way to preserve equilibrium in the universe. Please, no more.

  • Liane Curtis says:

    Elizabeth and Shawn’s blog is fun and I unusually enjoy it, but I am appalled that Shawn would attend the performance while ill and experiencing coughing fits that not only (as he states) disturb other audience members, but no doubt infect them as well. Shawn’s “commitment” in this case was pure selfishness.

  • Liz says:

    I also found it appalling. This person was selfish enough to attend a performance even when he had coughs horrible enough for him to miss pieces of music? (“There is one sung passage by The Nose apparently, but I missed it. No doubt I was coughing.”) He had no compassion for those people around him who were disturbed by his apparently nagging coughs? Was he thinking it’s OK because he was not the only one who were coughing?

    These sort of articles by newbies could be good to attract many more “new audience.” But in my opinion, people knowledgeable enough, including Mr. Lebrecht, should feel obliged to give some tips of basic etiquette, when they want to promote these type of blog articles.

    It sounds funny but apparently they don’t seem to have a clue so I say it now: If you can’t stop bad coughs even with a bag of lozenge or “the medicinal cough sweets” as Mr. Lebrecht put it, do some favor and stay home for your fellow audience, thanks!

  • MWnyc says:

    I saw this production when it was new, and I saw it again on Saturday afternoon.

    All elements taken together – music, design, stagecraft, performers – it’s probably the single most brilliant thing I’ve ever seen at the Met.

    First time around, I remember that from the very first notes, the music crackled with energy and cheek, and I was very impressed with Gergiev for bringing all that out. (As I said to my buddy, “This opera sure didn’t sound so brilliant when Leon Botstein conducted it.”)

    Not so on Saturday: the electricity just wasn’t there. The only thing I could think of is that at that hour on most days, Gergiev probably hasn’t gotten out of bed yet. (Because he probably didn’t get into bed until almost dawn.)