Opera Scotland

Rake's Progress 2012Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Rake's Progress

Scottish Opera's 2011-12 season was its fiftieth, with celebrations in order, though the tone was muted. There was a sense of relief that the company had survived recent turmoils, and the level of activity was much reduced. The full-scale productions began in the autumn with a revival of Thomas Allen's Barber of Seville staging. In the New Year there were new productions of Hansel and Gretel and The Rake's Progress, along with a welcome revival of the vintage Tosca production. In the absence of any invitation to play the main festival in 2011, the first item in the season was a staging on the Edinburgh Fringe of Weill's Seven Deadly Sins. This was followed by a third co-operation with Music Theatre Wales at the Traverse - the highly dramatic Greek. The autumn repertoire also had a medium scale tour of Orpheus in the Underworld. In January the Russian co-productions with the Conservatoire continued, with Prokofiev's Betrothal in a Monastery. There was also the expected Highlands and Islands concert party under the Opera Highlights label. In June, the company's 50th anniversary was celebrated with a single concert performance, well-cast, of those old stalwarts from days of yore, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci.

It seems surprising that The Rake's Progress has been performed so little in Scotland. After all, it received its British stage premiere at the 1953 Edinburgh Festival, and Scottish Opera mounted it for its first Festival appearance in 1967, which was the 'Stravinsky' year. Then the composer was present, and many of his works were given outings by famous interpreters (just one example being a concert where Firebird was played by the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell). Sadler's Wells brought to Scotland its staging, which had earlier been the basis of the composer's own recording. Then Scottish Opera's second production, in 1971, introduced us to the talent of David Pountney, with a surprisingly experimental concept. Since then, silence. It may be that for British companies, the long-lasting success of John Cox's Glyndebourne production, designed by David Hockney in neo-Hogarthian style, set a standard hard to match.

David McVicar has shown many times his ability to take a fresh look at a well-thumbed classic without ditching the essentials. Siân Edwards had a great success conducting A Night at the Chinese Opera. Edgaras Montvidas had already shown his great versatility, and here tackled a major role in English for the first time. Carolyn Sampson was very adventurous casting - after all, her reputation lay in real rather than neo-baroque repertoire. Steven Page was almost a fixture with Scottish Opera in the seasons when he sang Don Giovanni, Count Almaviva, Ford, and Choroebus. He had been away a long time, and now returned to a role he first sang with English Touring Opera a couple of decades ago.

In most respects the show was a great success, beautifully designed by John Macfarlane. The sets were relatively simple, with an inner stage, and pretty pastoral backcloths. There were several clever touches, with references to death from the start (the skull popping out from the cuckoo clock was particularly funny). The costumes, especially for the chorus, were wonderfully extravagant confections, and the auction scene became one of the real highlights, dominated by Colin Judson's hilarious auctioneer and Leah-Marian Jones's suddenly sympathetic Baba. The lead trio were hard to fault, Carolyn Sampson was not quite in her best voice to start (she had missed a performance early in the run). Page was a superbly trenchant Shadow, and Montvidas a quite tireless Tom, absolutely clear in his diction. Perhaps the brothel scene was slightly miscalculated - all the milling crowds of customers forced Mother Goose's capacious bed to the back of the stage, from where her voice made less impact than it should. Siân Edwards had as fine a success as on her previous appearance with A Night at the Chinese Opera, which can't be bad. The orchestral playing was quite beautiful, highlighting Stravinsky's wonderful woodwind writing.

Performance Cast

Anne Trulove Trulove's daughter

Carolyn Sampson

Elin Pritchard

Tom Rakewell a young gentleman engaged to Anne

Edgaras Montvidas

Trulove a country squire

Graeme Broadbent

Nick Shadow

Steven Page

Mother Goose keeper of the brothel

Karen Murray

Baba the Turk a bearded lady and circus attraction

Leah-Marian Jones

Sellem an auctioneer

Colin Judson

Keeper of the Madhouse

Ross McInroy

Performance DatesRake's Progress 2012

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

17 Mar, 19.15 21 Mar, 19.15 23 Mar, 19.15 25 Mar, 16.00

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

27 Mar, 19.15 29 Mar, 19.15 31 Mar, 19.15

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