Review: ‘The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat’

Review of Michael Nyman’s opera ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat’, based on Oliver Sacks’s book of the same name.

The Oxford Culture Review

Oliver Sacks’s 1985 book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat seems like a curious subject for an opera. Sacks himself said that his first thoughts on attempting an opera adaptation were “It’s mad.” Nonetheless, Michael Nyman proceeded to do exactly that: premiered in 1986, his opera took the title study from Sacks’s book and transformed it into a one-hour, one-act chamber piece. It follows the story of Mr P, a musician who suffered from visual agnosia, meaning that he could recognise details and schemata but failed to comprehend their significance. In one scene he describes a glove as a container with five pouches, unable to place it into its wider context. It is this disjuncture in perception that forms the foundations of the opera, placing questions about human expression at the centre of the work. New Chamber Opera’s production, directed by Michael Burden, provided an intimate…

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