The Rake’s Progress

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Scene from "The Rakes Progress"opera review

Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, inspired by the famous series of engravings by 18th-century artist William Hogarth that chronicled the descent into ruin of a young “man about town” through drink, gambling and loose women, is a charming, small-scale opera with many light moments. With a libretto by W.H. Auden, the opera avoids heavy moralizing and, with its comic elements, is almost a bridge to musical theater.

brothel scene from The Rakes Progress at the Princeton Festival. Photos by David Newton Dunn.

brothel scene from The Rakes Progress at the Princeton Festival. Photos by David Newton Dunn.

The Princeton Festival has done its usual highly professional work with this production. We have yet to see a production that fell short of world-class standards and this year’s efforts did not disappoint. The sets were simple but highly effective, capturing the flavor of the era. We particularly liked the enormous, rococo clock that descended from the proscenium to establish the atmosphere of elegant depravity in the bordello scenes. Permanently set at midnight, the clock perhaps reminded us of the inevitable doom coming upon the protagonist, Tom Rakewell. Played by handsome and young Lawrence Jones, the part of Rakewell was delivered with good acting and a crystal-clear tenor voice. Rakewell’s true love from his early days of innocence, named–wait for it–Anne Trulove, was played by Jodi Burns, whose wonderful voice has that house-filling quality marking an opera star. Kevin Burdette as Rakewell’s nemesis, Nick Shadow, was a marvelous villain, leading the youth inexorably to destruction. Cindy Sadler as Baba the Turk was just wonderful with a superb voice and acting that stole the show at several points, especially when she started smashing all the breakfast dishes.

Stephen Morscheck, Eileen Jennings, Julius Ahn and Gavin Hayes completed the cast as Father Trulove, Mother Goose (the brothel keeper), Sellem the auctioneer, and the Keeper of the Madhouse. Each delivered a well-rehearsed performance in voice that was a pleasure to hear.

Marie Miller’s lavish and period-perfect costumes combined with highly effective lighting by Norman Coates, working to create a perfect atmosphere. Finally, that overwhelmingly essential part of any opera, a good orchestra, was well supplied with Richard Tang Yuk conducting.

On the Web: http://www.princetonfestival.org/

Scene from "The Rakes Progress"opera review

Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, inspired by the famous series of engravings by 18th-century artist William Hogarth that chronicled the descent into ruin of a young “man about town” through drink, gambling and loose women, is a charming, small-scale opera with many light moments. With a libretto by W.H. Auden, the opera avoids heavy moralizing and, with its comic elements, is almost a bridge to musical theater.