The Rake's Progress

Last updated

The Rake's Progress
Opera by Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky LOC 32392u.jpg
The composer
Librettist
Based on A Rake's Progress by William Hogarth
Premiere
11 September 1951 (1951-09-11)

The Rake's Progress is an English-language opera from 1951 in three acts and an epilogue by Igor Stravinsky. The libretto, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is based loosely on the eight paintings and engravings A Rake's Progress (1733–1735) of William Hogarth, which Stravinsky had seen on 2 May 1947, in a Chicago exhibition.

Contents

The story concerns the decline and fall of one Tom Rakewell, who deserts Anne Trulove for the delights of London in the company of Nick Shadow, who turns out to be the Devil. After several misadventures, all initiated by the devious Shadow, Tom ends up in Bedlam, a hospital for the insane at that time situated in the City of London. The moral of the tale is: "For idle hearts and hands and minds the Devil finds work to do."

Performance history

It was first performed at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice on 11 September 1951, with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf creating the role of Anne Trulove, and Robert Rounseville that of Tom Rakewell. It was first given in Paris at the Opéra-Comique on 18 June 1952, under the baton of André Cluytens and produced by Louis Musy.

The American premiere was on 14 February 1953, at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, conducted by Fritz Reiner and produced by George Balanchine. Although the BBC had previously produced a studio recording (broadcast on 2 January 1953), and the Glyndebourne Opera mounted a staged production at the King's Theatre in Edinburgh in August 1953, the first staging in England was by the same company at the Glyndebourne Festival itself, opening on 15 July 1954.

In 1957, it was a part of the first season of the Santa Fe Opera under the direction of John Crosby, who persuaded the composer to attend rehearsals. Stravinsky returned to the SFO each summer through 1963. In 1961, Ingmar Bergman produced the opera at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm, where it opened on 22 April. The noteworthy 1975 Glyndebourne Festival Opera production was directed by John Cox, used sets and costumes were designed by David Hockney, and starred Leo Goeke as Tom Rakewell.

In 2010 the Berlin Staatsoper debuted Krzysztof Warlikowski's production, which transported the action from England to America and set it in the 20th century. [1] The production was full of references to American culture, such as Andy Warhol.

in 2015, the Utah Opera produced the opera with the costumes and set designed by David Hockney, first seen at Glyndebourne in 1975. Utah Symphony music director Thierry Fischer conducted, with stage direction by Roy Rallo, who assisted John Cox during San Francisco Opera's 2000 revival. [2]

Also, in 2015, Portland Opera presented the David Hockney production. Conductor was Ari Pelto and with the major roles taken by Jonathon Boyd, David Pittsinger, Maureen McKay and Angela Niederloh. [3]

Roles

RoleVoice typePremiere Cast,
11 September 1951
(Conductor: Igor Stravinsky)
Tom Rakewell, a Rake tenor Robert Rounseville
Anne Trulove, his Betrothed soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
Nick Shadow, a Devilish Manservant bass-baritone Otakar Kraus
Baba the Turk, a Bearded Lady mezzo-soprano Jennie Tourel
Father Trulove, Anne's Father bass Raffaele Arié
Sellem, an Auctioneer tenor Hugues Cuénod
Mother Goose, a Whore contralto Nell Tangeman
Keeper of the Madhouse bass Emanuel Menkes

Instrumentation

Stravinsky scored the opera for a classical-sized orchestra of two flutes (one doubling piccolo), two oboes (one doubling cor anglais), two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, bell, harpsichord (or piano) and strings.

Synopsis

Act 1

Hogarth's third painting, showing Tom experiencing a brothel in London William Hogarth - A Rake's Progress - Tavern Scene.jpg
Hogarth's third painting, showing Tom experiencing a brothel in London

Tom Rakewell is courting Anne Trulove outside her father's house in the country. Father Trulove has doubts about his daughter's proposed marriage and tries to arrange a regular job for Tom; but Tom resists the idea and, left on his own, declares his intention to "live by my wits and trust to my luck." When Tom expresses his wish for money, Nick Shadow appears and tells him that an unknown uncle has left him a substantial fortune. He then invites Tom to employ him as a servant and accompany Tom to London to sort out the inheritance.

The second scene, set in Mother Goose's brothel, shows Shadow introducing his new master to the sleazy aspects of London life. But Tom is uneasy and laments his betrayal of love, yet accepts Mother Goose's invitation to spend the night with her. Meanwhile, back in the country, Anne wonders why she has not heard from Tom. She knows somehow that he is in danger, and sets out for London to aid him.

Act 2

Tom is bored with his dissolute life. He utters his second crucial wish, for happiness, whereupon Nick makes the odd suggestion that he demonstrate his freedom by marrying Baba the Turk, the famous bearded lady. Soon afterwards Anne finds Tom's London house, only to see him emerge from a sedan chair which also contains Baba, whom he has just married. Tom tells Anne to leave, yet genuinely regrets what has happened.

In the next scene Tom is clearly finding his eccentric marriage intolerable, as Baba is a chatterbox with a fiery temper. He silences her by throwing his wig over her face, then falls asleep. Nick enters with a "fantastic Baroque Machine" and demonstrates how, through the use of a hidden compartment in the machine, it appears to turn stones into bread. Tom cries out in his sleep that he wishes it were true, and waking, finds the machine he has dreamt of. Nick hints that if such machines were mass-produced Tom could become a saviour of mankind and Tom sets out to market the machine, not knowing it is a sham.

Act 3 and Epilogue

Tom in Bedlam, comforted only by Sarah Young (Anne in the opera) - the last of Hogarth's paintings. William Hogarth 019.jpg
Tom in Bedlam, comforted only by Sarah Young (Anne in the opera) – the last of Hogarth's paintings.

The plan has failed – the act starts with the auction of the ruined Tom's property by the maniac auctioneer Sellem. The objects for sale include Baba, who has remained immobile since being silenced by the wig. When unwrapped, she resumes her tantrum, now directed at the auction-goers for disturbing her belongings, but calms down when Anne enters. Baba advises her to find Tom and "set him right", and warns her against Nick Shadow. She announces her intent to return to her life on the stage.

In a graveyard, Nick reveals his identity and demands payment from Tom, in the form of his soul; but as midnight strikes, Nick offers him an escape in the form of a game of cards; this section is accompanied only by harpsichord. Tom wins, thanks to the benign influence of Anne. Defeated, Nick sinks into the ground, condemning Tom to insanity as he goes. Consigned to Bedlam, Tom believes he is Adonis. Anne ("Venus") visits him, sings him to sleep, then quietly leaves him. When he realises she has gone, he dies.

In an epilogue, each of the principal characters gives a moral drawn from their scenes in the opera, and then come together to ascribe a final joint moral, "for idle hands, and hearts and minds, the Devil finds a work to do."

Noted arias

Quotes

Shadow (goading Tom into further ridiculous behaviour):

No eye his future can foretell
No law his past explain
Whom neither Passion may compel
Nor Reason can restrain.

Recordings

There have been more than half a dozen recordings of the opera. The Gala recording of the 1951 live performance is available. A Sony recording, with Judith Raskin as Ann and John Reardon as Nick Shadow, is from London 1964 and is conducted by Stravinsky himself. It is currently available on the Sony/BMG 22-CD box set Works of Igor Stravinsky.

YearCast
(Tom, Anne, Nick, Baba)
Conductor,
opera house and/or orchestra
Label
1953 Eugene Conley,
Hilde Gueden,
Mack Harrell,
Blanche Thebom
Igor Stravinsky,
Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra
CD: Naxos,
Catalogue No: 8.111266-67
(Original recording issued by Columbia)
1964 Alexander Young,
Judith Raskin,
John Reardon,
Regina Sarfaty
Igor Stravinsky,
Sadler's Wells Opera Chorus,
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
CD: Sony (Original recording issued by Columbia)
1983 Philip Langridge,
Cathryn Pope,
Samuel Ramey,
Sarah Walker
Riccardo Chailly,
London Sinfonietta and Chorus
CD: DECCA
1993 Jon Garrison,
Jayne West,
John Cheek,
Wendy White
Robert Craft,
Gregg Smith Singers,
Orchestra of St. Luke's
CD: Naxos,
Catalogue No: 8.660272-73,
(original recording issued by Musicmasters Classics)
1995 Jerry Hadley,
Dawn Upshaw,
Samuel Ramey,
Grace Bumbry
Kent Nagano,
Lyon Opera Orchestra and Chorus
CD: Erato
Cat. No. 0630 12715-2
1997 Anthony Rolfe-Johnson,
Sylvia McNair,
Paul Plishka,
Jane Henschel
Seiji Ozawa,
Tokyo Opera Singers,
Saito Kinen Orchestra
CD: Philips
1999 Ian Bostridge,
Deborah York,
Bryn Terfel,
Anne-Sofie von Otter
John Eliot Gardiner,
Monteverdi Choir,
London Symphony Orchestra
CD: Deutsche Grammophon
2010 Paul Groves,
Dawn Upshaw,
Samuel Ramey,
Stephanie Blythe
James Levine,
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
CD: Metropolitan Opera

Related Research Articles

Igor Stravinsky Russian composer and pianist (1882–1971)

Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor, later of French and American citizenship. He is widely considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century and a pivotal figure in modernist music.

David Hockney British artist

David Hockney is an English painter, draftsman, printmaker, stage designer, and photographer. As an important contributor to the pop art movement of the 1960s, he is considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century.

Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for collaborating with W. H. Auden on opera librettos for Igor Stravinsky and other composers.

A Rake's Progress is a series of eight paintings by 18th-century English artist William Hogarth. The canvases were produced in 1732–1734, then engraved in 1734 and published in print form in 1735. The series shows the decline and fall of Tom Rakewell, the spendthrift son and heir of a rich merchant, who comes to London, wastes all his money on luxurious living, prostitution and gambling, and as a consequence is imprisoned in the Fleet Prison and ultimately Bethlem Hospital (Bedlam). The original paintings are in the collection of Sir John Soane's Museum in London, where they are normally on display for a short period each day.

Kerstin Meyer Swedish opera singer

Kerstin Margareta Meyer, CBE was a Swedish mezzo-soprano who enjoyed an international career in opera and concert. A long-time member of the Royal Swedish Opera and Hamburg State Opera, she appeared regularly at the Royal Opera House in London and international opera houses and festivals, including in world premieres such as Alexander Goehr's Arden Must Die and György Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre.

Sir Willard Wentworth White, OM, CBE is a Jamaican-born British operatic bass baritone.

<i>Nones</i> (Auden)

Nones is a book of poems by W. H. Auden published in 1951 by Faber & Faber. The book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1946 and 1950, including "In Praise of Limestone", "Prime", "Nones," "Memorial for the City", "Precious Five", and "A Walk After Dark".

Elsie Morison

Elsie Jean Morison AM was an Australian operatic soprano.

The Cantata by Igor Stravinsky is a work for soprano, tenor, female choir, and instrumental ensemble, and was composed from April 1951 to August 1952. The premiere performance on 11 November 1952 was by the Los Angeles (Chamber) Symphony Society, conducted by Stravinsky himself. After completing the opera The Rake's Progress, Stravinsky felt the urge to compose another work setting English words, but in a non-dramatic form.

Jane Henschel is an American operatic mezzo soprano. Henschel, who was born in Wisconsin, studied at the University of Southern California, and then pursued further studies in Germany, where she has made her home. Her numerous opera appearances include Baba the Turk in Igor Stravinsky's The Rake’s Progress with Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto, and the Salzburg festival; Brangäne in Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde with Paris Opéra and the Los Angeles Opera; the Principessa in Giacomo Puccini’s Suor Angelica with conductor Riccardo Chailly and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Blanche de la Force in Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites in Amsterdam; Kostelnicka Buryjovka in Leoš Janáček’s Jenůfa under Seiji Ozawa in Japan; and the Kabanicka in Janáček’s Katya Kabanova at the Salzburg Festival among others.

This is a listing of all of Igor Stravinsky's commercially released studio recordings as a conductor or as a pianist; it also includes recordings conducted by Robert Craft "under the supervision of the composer." Works are arranged in chronological order by date of composition.

Loren Driscoll American opera singer

Loren Driscoll was an American tenor who had an active international career from the 1950s through the mid-1980s. Driscoll was particularly noted for his performances in contemporary operas and sang in many world premieres.

Layla Claire Canadian soprano opera singer

Layla Claire is a Canadian soprano opera singer. She was born in Penticton, British Columbia. She is a graduate of the Lindemann Young Artist at the Metropolitan Opera, where she made her debut as Tebaldo in Verdi's Don Carlos in 2010. She studied at Université de Montréal and graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in 2009. She was awarded the Prix des Amis d'Aix-en-Provence for best Mozart performance for her 2012 European debut as Sandrina and has since made acclaimed debuts at the Salzburg Festival as Donna Elvira, Opernhaus Zürich as the Governess, Washington National Opera as Blanche de la Force, Canadian Opera Company as Fiordiligi, Glyndebourne Festival Opera as Donna Anna, Händel-Festspiele Karlsruhe as Tusnelda (Arminio), and returned to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera as Anne Truelove. Ms. Claire has worked with major conductors including Tilson-Thomas, Nézet-Séguin, Haitink, Langrée and Hrůša in works by Mahler, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart and Dvořák.

Alexander Basil Young was an English tenor who had an active career performing in concerts and operas from the late 1940s through the early 1970s. He was particularly admired for his performances in the operas of Handel, Mozart, and Rossini and of choral works of the 18th century.

Leo Goeke was an American operatic tenor who had an active international career from the 1960s through the 1980s. He was particularly admired for his portrayal of Tom Rakewell in The Rake’s Progress at the Glyndebourne Festival in 1975 and its subsequent revivals there in 1977, 1978 and 1980. He was also lauded for his portrayal of Gandhi I in Philip Glass’ Satyagraha which he performed in a production staged by Achim Freyer at the Stuttgart Opera in 1983. Other opera companies which he sang leading roles with included the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, the Royal Opera, London, the Santa Fe Opera, and the Portland Opera among others.

Darren Lee Jeffery is an English bass-baritone singer active in opera, concert and oratorio.

Hervey Alan was an English operatic bass and voice teacher. During his career he sang leading roles with most of Great Britain's major opera institutions, including the Edinburgh Festival, the Glyndebourne Festival, the Royal Opera House, the Sadler's Wells Opera, and the Welsh National Opera. He is best known for creating the role of Mr. Redburn in the world premiere of Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd at the Royal Opera House, London, on 1 December 1951. Music critic Elizabeth Forbes wrote that his voice was "dark toned, resonant", and "especially effective as Zaccaria in Nabucco.

Paul Appleby (tenor) American operatic tenor

Paul Appleby is an American operatic tenor. In 2009 he won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. In November 2015 he made his debut at the San Francisco Opera as Tamino in Mozart's The Magic Flute. In December 2015 he was the tenor soloist in Mozart's Coronation Mass with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and in January 2016 he performed Belmonte in Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. He sang Belmonte again at the Metropolitan Opera in May 2016.

<i>A Rakes Progress, 3: The Tavern Scene</i> Painting by William Hogarth from the series A Rakes Progress

Tavern Scene or The Orgy is a work by William Hogarth from 1735, the third picture from the series A Rake's Progress.

<i>Glyndebourne Festival Opera: A Gala Evening</i>

Glyndebourne Festival Opera: A Gala Evening was a 111-minute concert staged by Glyndebourne Festival Opera on 24 July 1992, performed by Kim Begley, Montserrat Caballé, Cynthia Haymon, Felicity Lott, Benjamin Luxon, Ruggero Raimondi and Frederica von Stade with the Glyndebourne Festival Chorus and the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Sir Andrew Davis and Sir Bernard Haitink. It was televised in the United Kingdom by the BBC and released on VHS Videocassette by Kultur Video and on DVD by Image Entertainment, Arthaus Musik and Geneon.

References

  1. "THE RAKE'S PROGRESS – Oper von Igor Strawinsky | Staatsoper Berlin". Archived from the original on 22 December 2021 via www.youtube.com.
  2. The Rake's Progress / Salt Lake City / Utah Opera Opera News , 5 May 2019, retrieved May 9, 2019
  3. Press Release: Portland Opera Presents THE RAKE’S PROGRESS, May 11, 2015

Sources

Further reading