Opera Scotland

Rake's Progress The Rake's Progress

Music
Igor Stravinsky (born Oranienbaum, 17 June 1882; died New York, 6 April 1971)

Text
W H Auden and Chester Kallman.

Source
Series of eight engravings (1735) by William Hogarth (1697-1764).

Premieres
First performance: Venice (Teatro La Fenice), 11 September 1951.
First UK performance: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), 25 August 1953.
First performance in Scotland: As above.
Scottish Opera premiere: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), 22 August 1967.

Background
Stravinsky’s early career was dominated by his composition of ballets for Diaghilev, all with wonderfully novel and imaginative orchestration. His early vocal and operatic works were generally smaller in scale and more experimental in form, sometimes influenced by folk music. By 1920 he was living in Paris and entering on the period dominated by more austere neo-classical ideas, influenced by music of the eighteenth century. He continued this trend after his move to the United States in 1940. The Rake’s Progress was the climax of this phase of his career, after which he concentrated on more modern styles influenced by Schoenberg and his contemporaries. The Rake is unusual in his output in that its dramatic form, as provided by Auden and Kallman, seems almost a throwback to the period that influenced the music. The idea arose when Stravinsky saw an exhibition of Hogarth’s work in 1947, and he quickly proposed the subject to Auden. Despite its wit and sense of artificiality the work still makes a highly dramatic effect.

Characters
Trulove, a country squire (bass)
Anne Trulove, his daughter (soprano)
Tom Rakewell (tenor)
Nick Shadow (baritone)
Mother Goose, a brothel-keeper (mezzo-soprano)
Baba the Turk, a bearded lady and circus attraction (mezzo-soprano)
Sellem, an auctioneer (tenor)
Keeper of the Madhouse (baritone)

Plot Summary
Tom Rakewell is engaged to Anne, but her father is doubtful about the young man’s character. Tom rejects the offer from Trulove of a London job. In response to Tom’s wish for money, Nick Shadow appears with news of a great inheritance. Tom leaves for London, employing Shadow as his servant, and throws himself into a life of pleasure. Anne makes up her mind to travel to London to rescue him. He eventually becomes bored with his dissolute lifestyle, and is persuaded by Shadow to marry Baba the Turk, in a bizarre marriage which will give them instant celebrity, if not notoriety. Anne meets the couple and is heartbroken. At home, Tom is quickly driven to distraction by Baba’s endless chatter and attention seeking. Shadow persuades him to invest in a fake machine for turning stones into bread. He goes bankrupt and all his effects are put up for auction, including Baba. When Anne appears, Baba urges her to go to Tom’s rescue. Shadow, at last revealed to be the Devil, wishes to claim Tom’s soul. He offers to play Tom at cards, but loses, since Tom is at last influenced by memories of Anne’s love. Nick is vanquished, but first makes Tom mad, so he ends in Bedlam. Anne lulls him to sleep, and he dies when he wakes to find her gone. The Epilogue points the moral to the story.

The Cast

Anne Trulove
 Trulove's daughter
Baba the Turk
 a bearded lady and circus attraction
Keeper of the Madhouse
 
Mother Goose
 keeper of the brothel
Nick Shadow
 
Sellem
 an auctioneer
Tom Rakewell
 a young gentleman engaged to Anne
Trulove
 a country squire

© Copyright Opera Scotland 2017

Site by SiteBuddha