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Stravinsky’s masterwork The Rake’s Progress, created for La Fenice in Venice in 1951, is based on a libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, inspired by a series of 18th century prints by William Hogarth. This amazing production from La Monnaie–De Munt ‘jazzifies’ the setting by replacing Hogarth’s sin city, London, with 1950s Las Vegas, turning it into a glittering, cinematic gallery of tableaux vivants inspired by the early days of television. Staged by one of the most visionary theatre directors of our age, the Québécois Robert Lepage, the neo-classical morality tale truly becomes a grand spectacle. Lepage’s visual imagination works its magic superbly, while Kazushi Ono’s energetic musical direction drives the sparkling ensemble to exhilarating heights.
Interview with stage director Robert Lepage
Behind the scenes & rehearsal footage
Cast gallery & illustrated synopsis
‘Lepage has forged a reputation as one of the most visionary theatre directors of our age… The Rake’s Progress is heading our way, and it promises to be a highlight of the 2007/8 season.’ Sunday Times
“It seems perverse to place it in Las Vegas in the 1950s, as Robert Lepage has done, with stetsons, risqué revue turns and black-and-white TV … Yet when we arrive at the graveyard scene, and then the incredibly moving mad scene in Bedlam, it is all so wonderful that I felt it had been worth persevering. Musically, it is first-rate.”
“Auden first met Stravinsky to discuss the libretto of The Rake's Progress in Hollywood in 1947, and Robert Lepage winds forward his 'clock of fashion' to the time and place of the opera's composition.
Hogarth's Gin Alley runs into Easy Street, populated by Vegas hookers, dancers and chancers. The composer-sanctioned division into two halves rather than three acts is a complementary move from the conventions of the opera house to the theater, and what a show we have. Madam, or rather Mother Goose (Julianne Young, bearing a disconcerting resemblance to Julianne Moore), lures the naive Tom onto a heart-shaped satin bed, and the pair literally sink into its folds – before our hero re-emerges, worldly wise and weary, in front of a blow-up Winnebago, and banishes ennui not with mother's ruin but a line or two of Colombia's finest.
Andrew Kennedy takes all this in his stride, and his always fresh, appealing tenor ensures we retain our sympathy through Tom's piteous downfall from indolence to insanity, far more so than we are likely to for his operatic model, Ferrando.
From Nick Shadow's first entrance under the shade of a Dallas derrick to his flame-capped Broadway nemesis, the parallels are not with Dons Alfonso or Giovanni but rather Alberich.
This is largely thanks to William Shimell's ironblack baritone and rasping wit, though lines such as 'That man alone is free who chooses what to will and wills his choice as destiny' certainly strike a Wagnerian ring of mania.
The recorded balance is slightly unfavourable to Laura Claycomb in 'I go to him': this is her 'Abscheulicher', but she is no Leonora, and is happiest vocally when she is dramatically downcast.
The two crucial scenes, either side of the interval, between her, Tom and Dagmar Pecková's show-stealing Baba are models of ensemble writing and direction, pulling between operatic naturalism and Stravinsky's preferred realism just as Tom is torn between one woman and the other – and all in front of a chorus who change from waltz-time party guests to painfully well observed inhabitants of Bedlam with phenomenal assurance.
Doubtless Kazushi Ono must take credit for some slickly cinematic pacing. This is a show to be seen and, down to the witty, period and silent menu screens, a model of its kind.”
“This is a show to be seen - Covent Garden is staging it in July - and, down to the witty, period and silent menu screens, a model of its kind.”
“Lepage has forged a reputation as one of the most visionary theatre directors of our age… The Rake’s Progress is heading our way, and it promises to be a highlight of the 2007/8 season.”
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