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Hats off to Michael Nyman

The ICA is staging the composer’s opera The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat for just one performance as part of a double bill

24 November, 2017 — By Sebastian Taylor

Michael Nyman. PHOTO: Nicolas Genin

Islington-based composer Michael Nyman’s The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat is returning to The ICA, The Mall, for one performance next Thursday, November 30. It was first performed there 31 years ago, shortly after its composition.

The one-act chamber opera is based on an adaptation of the case study by renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks concerning a music professsor, Dr P.
The professor has gradually lost the ability to comprehend or interpret what he sees, a neurological deficit known as visual agnosia. Nyman’s minmalist score makes use of songs by Robert Schumann, and on one occasion Dr P sings the beautiful River aria accompanied by his wife. In the aria, Dr P describes “seeing” a scene which is in fact entirely in his own mind.

Nyman’s opera is part of a double-bill, the second piece being Kate Whitley’s Unknown Position. This opera was inspired by Erika Eiffel who famously fell in love with the Eiffel Tower, an example of object sexuality or objectophilia. In the opera, the woman portrayed falls in love with a chair.

The two operas are being packaged together as I, Opera, staged by the City Music Foundation at the ICA on November 30.

I, Object: An opera double bill – Michael Nyman’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Kate Whitley’s Unknown Position, Institute of Contemprary Arts, The Mall, 4pm open rehearsal, £8.53; 6pm panel discussion, £6.44; 8pm performance, from £22.30,


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