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Stravinsky: The Rake's Progress / Jurowski, Lehtipuu, Persson, Rose [DVD]

Album Summary

>Stravinsky, Igor : Rake's Progress
Performers Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

In this celebrated Glyndebourne Festival production, David Hockney's designs for director John Cox reinterpret the Hogarth etchings that inspired the opera's libretto, written for Stravinsky by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman. In 2010, this revival under Glyndebourne's Music Director, Vladimir Jurowski, captured the opera's neo-classical spirit and its juxtaposition of whimsy, cynicism and compassion, prompting the Financial Times to call it, ''as enjoyable a performance of Stravinsky's opera as any that has come along".

"The measure of the success of the production is that it was first put on at Glyndebourne in 1975 and, as this 2010 performance at the festival shows, it is still delighting and wowing audiences thirty-five years later and will no doubt continue to be revived for many more years. There aren’t many productions that have that kind of staying power... Every scene however is an absolute delight, breathtaking in some places, with marvellous little touches that bring out the humour of the situations well. Vladimir Jurowski treats the opera very much as a Russian work, while being mindful of its English and international aspects. These are brought out fully in the casting and the singing, which is of fine quality throughout, with Miah Persson and Topi Lehtipuu demonstrating perfect English diction." -Opera Journal

Glyndebourne... is a brilliant success, a spectacular performance with stunning sets and lighting... it is a visual knock-out, with effective surround sound. This is a terrific recording in every way.

BBC Music Magazine
This is a production full of colour and light, and brimming with wit

BBC Music Magazine
Full of colour and light, and brimming with wit, this is a production that lifts the performers...Lehtipuu conveys [Tom's] fresh-faced innocence, making his gradual demise all the more heart-breaking. Bass Matthew Rose is not the most chilling Nick Shadow, but is all the more believable as an apparently supportive, and likeable, friend to Tom, until the veil drops...[Persson] underpins [Anne's] heartfelt love with a steely determination...An absolute triumph.

Gramophone Magazine
It is hard to imagine a Tom Rakewell who looks the part better than the lanky, almost adolescent Topi Lehtipuu, his wide-eyed innocence an open invitation to corruption, and he sings the role with elegance. Miah Persson is almost his equal...The combination of Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra ensures crisp ensemble of the highest quality.

International Record Review
Star of the show - as she is so often - is Miah Persson, who turns out to be a radiant and steadfast Anne...[Lehtipuu] manages to give us a Tom whoe fundamentally endearing qualities shine through, even when he's at his most cocky...Matthew Rose's portrayal of Nick Shadow has been criticized in some quarters for its lack of venom, but I find that the mellifluous coating to his malevolence only adds to the effect.

Notes & Reviews:

Run Time: 150 min.
Region: All
Picture Format: NTSC, 16:9, Color
Sound Format(s): LPCM Stereo, DTS 5.0 Surround
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish


Well done revival of modern classic!
Stravinsky’s A Rake’s Progress is based on a libretto by W.H. Auden which, in turn, is based on the series of satirical prints by English artist and engraver William Hogarth from1735. In concept, Hogarth’s work was the earliest form of “graphic novel” and his artwork is largely pen and ink line drawing. The storyline itself is a pretty easy to follow “morality play”. The principal character, the young Tom Rakewell, is a young, good looking free spirit who is attracted to Anne Trulove and wishes to marry her. Anne’s father questions Tom’s lack of professional determination and displays some paternal hesitancy about Tom’s desires. Enter a courier, Nick Shadow, with the news that Tom’s all but forgotten uncle has passed away; leaving Tom a great fortune.

Shadow takes Tom to London to sign paperwork to inherit his new wealth but, along the way, Nick introduces Tom to the distractions of the big city; including prostitutes, clothiers and many other earthly sources of blowing his money. In a critical – and highly symbolic and satirical – scene Anne tracks down Tom who ends up rebuking her by announcing that he is marrying Baba the Turk who seduces well but is also a bearded lady who is quite possessive! Tom ends up challenging Nick Shadow to win back Anne and start over in a card game that Tom does end up winning. Nick – who we infer is actually the Devil – gets revenge by making Tom insane. Rakewell spends his last days in an asylum thinking that he is Adonis and that his lost love, Anne, is Venus. He dies poor, loveless and witless.

Hogarth used lithography as a medium to make social points (having written and drawn other such stories like “A Harlot’s Progress” and “The Stages of Cruelty”). Auden’s libretto uses the same approach but with a little more humor; coming mainly from the Baba character. Stravinsky’s opera was not an initial success and is still performed only sparingly. Seen as too “modern” for the 1953 Sussex crowd it was written for; too “conservative” for those expecting Stravinsky the modernist.

This production is quite good, though, and invites revisiting the opera as one of Stravinsky’s greatest achievements. Musically, this is Stravinsky in neo-Baroque form with echoes of Pulcinella and Apollon Musagête throughout. There are some very nice arias for Anne and Tom that certainly do resemble Rameau more than Puccini. The score is crisp and accented and attractive but spare. Written in three acts from nine scenes taken from the Hogarth prints, the play moves compactly and nothing lingers any longer than plot acuity demands. Musically, I feel this is a different Stravinsky from The Firebird to be sure but beautiful and attention keeping none the less.

The performances in this production are terrific. All principals in this fairly small cast are great but special kudos go to the young Finnish tenor, Topi Lehtipuu, as a nearly idiomatic Tom Rakewell and to Matthew Rose as the slimy and convincing Nick Shadow. The forces of the London Philharmonic (downsized) and the Glyndebourne Chorus play wonderfully under the young Russian and LPO music director Vladimir Jurowski. Juroswki’s conducting is captivating unto itself with an angularity but crisp clarity that befit this music perfectly.

The production by renowned artist David Hockney is another reason to check out this production. Commissioned by John Cox in 1975, the set, costumes and backdrop all look – as Cox admits – a bit “off-kilter” but in a visually arresting way. Hockney uses the original Hogarth drawings with their pen-and-ink look to give a “drawn” appearance to everything from trees to buildings to clothing to masks on the chorus. Each scene is practically a lithograph itself. I first saw Hockney as a stage designer in Puccini’s Turandot and became enthralled. This is a wholly different view than that work but equally amazing in my view.

If you have never heard nor seen The Rake’s Progress, this production offers a very satisfying first glance. If you already know it, you may welcome a very visually unusual perception and with a great performance by Topi Lehtipuu.

Submitted on 02/14/12 by Dan Coombs 
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Works Details

>Stravinsky, Igor : Rake's Progress
  • Performers: Clive Bayley (Bass); Topi Lehtipuu (Tenor); Elena Manistina (Contralto); Miah Persson (Soprano); Matthew Rose (Bass)
  • Conductor: Vladimir Jurowski
  • Ensemble: Glyndebourne Chorus
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1948-1951