OP0534. THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT (Nichael Nyman), recorded 1987, w. THE COMPOSER Cond. Emile Belcourt, Sarah Leonard & Frederick Westcott. CBS MK 44669, Boxed Set w. Elaborate 243pp. Libretto-Brochure. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 509970466927
“An investigation into the world of a man (Dr P) with visual agnosia (or ‘mental blindness’ due to damage of the visual parts of the brain). Such patients ‘see but do not see’. They see colours, lines, boundaries, simple shapes, patterns, movement - but they are unable to recognise, or find sense in, what they see. They cannot recognise people or places or common objects; their visual world is no longer meaningful or familiar, but strange, abstract, chaotic, mystifying. If a world cannot be organised visually, other organizing principles may be found and used. In the case of Dr P, a gifted performer, his exceptional musical ability allows him, in large measure, to return sense to the world by putting it and his actions into music.
Dr. P and his wife both have elements of the heroic, but the real hero in THE HAT is surely music - the power of music to organise and integrate, to knit or re-knit a shattered world into sense.
I have said this in the case history, but it needs to be shown: 'what can be shown cannot be said.' And how better could it be shown - indeed how else - than by an opera? This was Michael Nyman's brilliant inspiration. One would not have thought, on principle, that such matters of neurology or epistemology could be explored in an opera - but opera turns out to be the perfect medium: the theme seems pre-ordained for the form. Thus, THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT, in a manner which first appears highly improbable, but then seems to be almost inevitable, turns into a neurological opera - the first such in the history of neurology or opera.”
- Oliver Sacks