Today I will be reviewing an opera by Igor Stravinsky. The opera in question is "The Rake's Progress", based on a series of 8 paintings by William Hogearth. (The final is pictured below.) The specific one that I'll be reviewing is the production the recently played at the Metropolitan Opera House in 2015 on May 9th. I was given the ticket by a friend of mine.
Image Credit to Wikipedia
WARNING: Spoilers ahead!
The story follows a young man by the name of Tom Rakewell, who is told that he has inherited a great fortune from an unknown uncle by a man named Nick Shadow (subtle, right?). He moves to London with the promise to send for his love, named Anne Trulove, after his estate is in order. He soon tries to forget about her, and instead takes a bearded lady, named Baba the Turk, for a wife. Anne is heartbroken. In the end Tom confronts Shadow, who is actually Satan! He finally claims Tom's soul. What for? For giving him money and wealth, for Tom's uncle... never existed! Tom then defeats Satan in a game, and claims his soul, but alas! He places a curse of insanity upon Tom. Anne then visits Tom in an insane asylum. Tom believes that he is Adonis, Venus's lover, and that Anne is Venus. The very last scene is the actors who played Father Trulove, Anne, Tom, Shadow, and Baba telling the audience what the moral of the opera was.
The music is astounding.. Truly amazing. The grand sweeping tones are just gorgeous. It's fun to draw a parallel between the music and the story. The music is light spirited at times, and then sad at times, but there's always a feeling of hope in the music throughout. That is, until Tom goes insane. Then the music turns drudging, sad, hopeless. I was swept away by the score (I happen to be listening to it as I write).
The opera is quite satirical in nature. There are multiple cliches that seem to be mocked in it. The villain's last name is Shadow, and he has a baritone/bass range, which is enormously typical of opera. When the lovers say goodbye, Tom moves to go, and the music dwindles. Suddenly, it swells, and Tom goes back to Anne to say another goodbye. Those things and many more are what made me adore this opera.
It makes me very sad that "The Rake's Progress" had such a limited run at the Met. It is a beautiful, clever, and magnificent opera. If you ever find yourself coming upon a set of tickets for this opera at the Met ever again, go see it. It's truly extraordinary.
This is the Teenage Critic, signing off!
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