The Rake's Progress


Stravinsky’s masterpiece in the brilliant reading by Gianandrea Noseda directed by David McVicar 

Teatro Regio, Tuesday 10th June 2014 at 20:00

The Season of the Teatro Regio continues with the exploration of the repertoire of the twentieth century with The Rake's Progress, the opera by Igor Stravinsky on stage for five performances from 10th - 18th June.

Gianandrea Noseda, after his great production of Guglielmo Tell, is back on the podium of the Regio, conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of another opera masterpiece, equally challenging. The Scottish director David McVicar created the new production of The Rake’s Progress in co-production with the Scottish Opera in Glasgow. Sir McVicar has long aspired to work on this, fascinated by the two basic elements that belong to his style: the combination of tradition and transgression that the story of the libertine suggests. The setting is eighteenth-century planned by Stravinsky, but reinterpreted in an original way with the sets and costumes by John Macfarlane and lighting by David Finn. The elegant and sharp choreography by Andrew George is the perfect complement to the direction. The result, judged by masterful critics, is a performance that puts in evidence some aspects of the opera with brilliant and irreverent humour, decidedly British.

For this production, two singers known for their singing and acting qualities play the roles of the young lovers: Tom Rakewell will be the Italian-American tenor Leonardo Capalbo, acclaimed for his interpretations of Verdi and for those of the repertoire of the twentieth century. Anne Trulove will be Danielle de Niese, an Australian soprano known for her stage presence and her exceptional voice, expert in the twentieth century and the baroque repertoire. Trulove, Anne’s father, will be the basso Jakob Zethner, a Danish singer praised for his modulated and deep tunes. The baritone Bo Skovhus, another Danish artist, engaged in the most important opera houses worldwide, will play the devilish Nick Shadow, while Annie Vavrille, a French mezzo-soprano of great interpretative intelligence, will be the Turkish Baba. Completing the cast are mezzo-soprano Barbara Di Castri (Mother Goose), the tenor Colin Judson (Sellem), and the baritone Ryan Milstead (the asylum’s keeper). As usual, Claudio Fenoglio will lead the choir.

The opera was premiered on 11th September 1951, at La Fenice in Venice, but its genesis dates back to 1947, when the Russian musician, visiting an exhibition in Chicago, was impressed by a series of satirical etchings by the eighteenth-century Englishman artist William Hogarth, who represented the different stages in the career of a libertine. From these recordings, Stravinsky was inspired to compose this opera in English, something he had dreamt of since his arrival in America. The musician was very impressed, in particular, by the scene of the asylum. He then asked his librettist, the English poet Wystan Hugh Auden, to absolutely include it in the booklet; Auden agreed, explaining that «the job of a librettist is to please the composer, not the other way round». Auden then treated the rest of the story outlined by Hogarth with a lot of freedom, using elements drawn from the myths of Don Giovanni, Faust, Orpheus, Venus and Adonis. From the original etchings where Stravinsky found inspiration to compose the music, the eighteenth-century setting remained, thus closing his neoclassical period. The Rake’s Progress is in fact, being an eighteenth century opera, divided into a series of closed-number arias, choruses and instrumental interludes; there are even dry recitativo secco accompanied by a sort of new basso continuo of the harpsichord. The stylistic models declared by the author were the operas by Mozart, particularly Così fan tutte and Don Giovanni, but critics have also made allusions to the operas by Gluck, Rossini, Donizetti, Bizet, Verdi among many others. The aspects inspired by the traditions mingle with other more modern and typical of Stravinsky, such as the tonal and harmonic ambiguities as well as the rhythmic irregularities that will be skillfully highlighted by the direction of Gianandrea Noseda.

The Rake's Progress begins in the English countryside, where the young protagonists Tom Rakewell, spends his days in idleness. His girlfriend’s family, Anne Trulove, is worried about Tom’s future that is moved by a strange creed: he is convinced that nobody can make a fortune means of work. Fate seems to agree with him: a stranger arrives, Nick Shadow, to announce that Tom had become rich after his uncle’s death. Tom and Shadow then depart for London to collect his inheritance. As soon as they arrive in the capital city, Shadow leads Tom to a brothel to show him where the true pleasures of life reside. Tom soon gets bored of the dissolute life he leads so Shadow convinces him to marry the obese, bearded circus woman, the horrible Baba the Turk. Shadow believed that this foolish marriage would free his friend from passion and reason, the tyrants that prevent him from being a free man. On Tom’s wedding day, Anne goes to see him to speak of her love but the young man refuses her, turning all his attentions to the monstrous Baba. The marriage, however, soon turns out to be so unbearable that Tom, in order to find some relief, takes refuge in his sleep. Tom’s libertine life culminates with a grand auction where he sells all his possessions, including his wife.
One year and a day had passed since Tom and Shadow met for the first time, so Shadow requires - as prophesied in the first act - his reward: Shadow wants Tom’s soul, but is willing to give it up if the young man guesses the three cards that he will draw from a deck. With the help of Anne’s love, Tom beats Shadow, who, before returning to the underworld, turns Tom into a madman. Tom ends up in a mental hospital and believes to be Adonis, and when Anne pays him a visit, he mistakes her for Venus. Anne cradle the young man, puts him to sleep and leaves. When he wakes up Tom is convinced by the others that the presence of Venus was just a dream and surrenders himself to death. The opera ends with an epilogue in which all the characters go back to stage to pronounce the moral of the story: that idle hands are the devil's workshop.

The opera will be presented to the public by the musicologist Alberto Bosco, within the Le conferenze del Regio, at the Piccolo Regio Puccini on Wednesday 4th June at 17:30. Admission is free. Rai-Radio3 will broadcast this opera “premiere” live on 10th Tuesday, June at 20:00. As usual, you can follow the events of backstage as well as discover some curiosity about interpreters and fitting by looking at the Sketch of Passion by Paola Giunti, on the site of the Regio and on our Youtube channel.

For ease of programming, it was necessary to change two performances dates: the performance combined with the D Round; scheduled for Friday 13th June will take place on Thursday 12th June 12 at 20:00; and the one combined with the F Round, scheduled for Sunday 22nd June, will take place on 14th Saturday at 15:00.

Teatro Regio ticket office: Piazza Castello 215 - Tel 011.8815.241/242 at Infopiemonte TorinoCultura, or visti . You can also call us on (sales by credit card number) on: 011.8815.270. Info: tel. 011.8815.557.

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