Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Stravinsky - The Rake's Progress / Lott Goeke Ramey Elias van Allan Haitink Glyndebourne Opera|
Actors: Samuel Ramey, Leo Goeke, Felicity Lott, Richard Van Allan, Bernard Haitink
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
This Production Will Likely Never Be Bettered
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 09/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 1975 production from Glyndebourne is one of the most celebrated opera productions of the past thirty years. Primarily this is because of the absolutely fabulous design by David Hockney who took the engravings of Hogarth's series 'The Rake's Progress,' which had inspired the opera in the first place, and turned them into some of the cleverest sets and costumes ever seen. The designs mimic the hatchmarks seen in etchings and are conveyed in only a few basic colors - black, blue, red, green - and appear not only in the backgrounds but also in the materials of the costumes themselves. Some of Hockney's 'Rake' designs can be found on the Internet, if one looks, and can give one an idea of how striking they are.
All that, of course, would be for naught if it weren't for the graceful stage direction by John Cox and the stunning musical direction by Bernard Haitink, leading the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
As for the cast, they are well-nigh perfect. Leo Goeke, a tenor of whom I am not generally fond, is perfect both in looks and sound for the rake of the title, Tom Rakewell. He limns the downward spiral of the young man with simplicity and without a bit of sentimentality. The then-young Felicity Lott, at the beginning of her career, is a simply stunning Anne Trulove. She sings with lyric beauty and her acting, in a fairly one-dimensional part, is believable and touching. Her 'Gently, little boat' brings tears to one's eyes. Samuel Ramey, also at the beginning of his career, is splendid as the efficiently evil Nick Shadow, with enough charm to make the character believable. The card-playing scene in the graveyard between Tom and Nick is paced, sung and acted so credibly that one holds one's breath. Nick's disappearance into the coffin after he loses to Tom is a coup de théâtre of the best sort. Rosalind Elias chews the scenery as Baba the Turk, the bearded lady. She brings down the house in the continuation of her aria in Act III, and she sings gorgeously. Richard van Allen, as Trulove, is appropriately stern and then forgiving, and his black bass is used in service of the character. Minor characters - Sellem, Mother Goose, the keeper of the madhouse - are all done wonderfully. The Glyndebourne Chorus, who have an extremely important part to play, are superb. In the madhouse scene one realizes they would be stunning in, say, Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms.
This production had previously been available on VHS but I never saw it. This DVD has wonderful sight and sound. I doubt I shall ever need to own another version of this wonderful Mozartean opera by Stravinsky.
An unabashedly enthusiastic recommendation.
TT=146 mins; PCM stereo; Subtitles in English, German, French, Spanish.
Finally, The Rake's Progress as Stravinsky and Auden intende
RENS | Dover, NH USA | 09/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 1975 Glyndebourn Festival production of The Rake's Progress cannot be surpassed. David Hockney's sets refer back to the 18th Century engravings by Hogarth that inspired Auden and Stravinsky. He magically uses the effect of black and white engraving lines along with brightly colored costumes to achieve a feast for the eyes. Bernard Haitink conducts Stravinsky's score with an ear for accuracy and affect. Perhaps he might have directed with a mite more "snap" to the rhythms, but this is a very minor quibble.
Felicity Lott's Ann Truelove is sweetly innocent yet passionately in love. Her singing is exquisitely produced and nuanced. Goeke's Tom Rakewell's descent into greed, lust, boredom, and failed good intentions is masterfuly portrayed. His voice is light and accurate, just as the score calls for. When his love for Ann saves him from damnation and his association with the devil robs him of his sanity, the scene in Bedlam in which he thinks Ann is Venus and he sings of his love for her thinking he himself is Adonis - well, the heart breaks and breaks again. Samuel Ramey's Nick Shadow is as good as it gets: he is in turn charming, insidious, theatening, seductive, sarcastic and, yes, thoroughly diabolical. Of course, his singing is impeccable. One is reminded of how perfect a Mefistofele he made in Boito's opera of the same name (available on VHS and DVD in a San Francisco Opera production). Rosalind Elias sings and plays Baba the Turk with her usual command of her art; she is simply fabulous, at times hilarious and at times imperious. Richard van Allan brings vocal distinction together with dignity and compassion to the part of Father Truelove. The other singers are excellent in their roles (Mother Goose, Sellem the auctioneer, the warden in Bedlam). The acting and singing of the chorus cannot be faulted.
Everything is right about this production and this performance.
Finally, for goodness' sake don't be drawn into buying the Salzburg Festival version available on DVD. Although the singing and playing are first rate (Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, et al.), the stage production is a travesty. The production is a stage director's ego trip and a fine example of "Euro-trash." The "Progress" becomes a bohenian painter's search for his artistic aesthetic. Tom wears paint spattered jeans and a Brando t-shirt. Ann turns up throughout the opera wearing what seems to be a slip (perhaps a shift). Nick Shadow is something of a Mafia thug. Father Trulove is a hick farmer. Baba the Turk wears a butterschotch leather jacket over a black t-shirt with a yellow happy face, together with a mini-skirt. A group of monkeys comes and goes. Clown make-up is laid on increasingly thickly from act to act. One can do an innovative production of this opera, as Sarah Caldwell once did in Boston, without disrespect for librettist and composer and without asking the performers to appear foolish. Stay away from Salzburg 1994; go for Glyndebourn 1975."
Impressive Realization of THE RAKE
M. De Sapio | Alexandria, VA | 08/31/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"THE RAKE'S PROGRESS, a collaborative effort between composer Igor Stravinsky and poets W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is one of the operatic milestones of the 20th century. This often misunderstood and even maligned work divided critics when it was premiered in 1951: some thought it a pointless pastiche, others found the work's classical sanity and clarity deeply meaningful and the perfect artistic antidote to the recent World War. The highly literary Auden/Kallman libretto, inspired by moralistic narrative drawings by William Hogarth, is a brilliant and timeless parable, illustrating the moral downfall of a weak, naive young man at the hands of the nihilistic arguments of the Devil. Stravinsky's neoclassical score, by turns acerbic and warmly lyrical, attains in places to a 20th-century approximation of the crystalline purity and perfection of Mozart. Such arias as "Love, too frequently betrayed", "Vary the song, O London", and "No word from Tom"; the trio in Act II Scene 2; and the final scene in the madhouse are among such transcendent musical moments.
Finally (as of 2005), we have the opportunity to enjoy on DVD what is probably the most famous production of the opera, the one designed by David Hockney for the Glyndebourne Festival in 1975 (though it could be 1995, so clear are the picture and sound). The sets of this staging feature flat surfaces and cross-hatching motifs that mimic the famous Hogarth etchings while also underscoring the opera's deliberate artificiality and stylization. The sets and costumes are in several places colorful and beautiful; on the other hand, in the brothel scene and the auction scene Hockney sacrifices beauty to gross realism and/or grotesquerie, making these scenes less enjoyable for me (though by no means un-Hogarthian).
Tenor Leo Goeke plays the titular rake, Tom Rakewell; while not extremely incisive in vocal tone or stage presence, he proves moving as Tom plunges into despair and madness, crying real tears in the madhouse scene. As Anne, Tom's "true love", Felicity Lott offers a warm, intelligent stage presence and fluid vocalism (including secure intonation and accurate rendering of coloratura, tasks which Goeke sometimes falls short of). The other outstanding performance is the Nick Shadow of Samuel Ramey, then 32 or 33 years old; wearing a black wig which gives him a somewhat androgynous appearance, he makes a suave, sinister, and seductive (to say nothing of superbly sung) Devil. Bernard Haitink leads the London Philharmonic in a brilliant, incisive reading of this tricky score. A curiosity of the formal presentation of this Arthaus Musik DVD is the liner notes, which appear to have been translated from German by someone with limited proficiency in English. Lovers of this opera who are English-speaking may be a little put off by this bit of amateurism.
Fans of Stravinsky, Auden, 20th-century opera, great English poetry, morality plays, the 20th-century Christian revival, or all of the above, will be intrigued and pleased by THE RAKE'S PROGRESS.
Great basic performance
Albert Innaurato | Philadelphia Pa | 06/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Maybe I should explain my headline. For anyone approaching this work for the first time, or wanting to really settle down and get to grips with it, this is surely the best possible way.
First of all, the music making: it is superb. The London Philharmonic is spectacular. The many tricky solos in winds and brass are stunningly played, not only very accurately, but with beauty of tone and appropriate expression. The tuning of the strings in some tricky passages (the prelude to the Graveyard Scene for example) is pristine and the harpsichordist is simply a virtuoso (he accompanies the Graveyard Scene with exemplary clarity and point). Haitink's conducting is exceptional. He is very accurate, superb at pointing details and while he is aware of the composer's own rather dry manner in this score (Stravinsky led two recordings, the second in stereo with some help from Robert Craft), he also knows how to expand and color the music, just enough to remind one how beautiful the music is and how touching the opera is. The sound is excellent.
Hockney's Hogarth inspired but very witty sets offer some of the same 'out of kilter' homage to a visual style the music does to a range of composers from Monteverdi through Mozart to hints of Verdi and earlier Stravinsky. They are remarkable both in a large sense for their atmosphere and wit (sometimes charming, sometimes edgy) and in a smaller sense for their amazing detail (and the pristine DVD picture allows one to scrutinize the sets at leisure to find all kinds of things semi-buried in the images). There are other ways to go, but as the other reviewers have mentioned, this follows Stravinsky (who saw a Hogarth exhibition and got the idea for the opera) and Auden with both precision and brilliant invention.
John Cox's production is perfect in its deft, observant staging, simple believable gestures and where needed, strong theatricality. Again the implications both of the surface of the glittering text by Auden/Kallman, and the depths suggested by the story and music are elegantly and effortlessly realized.
The cast is good to excellent -- but whatever one thinks of this or that vocal passage, one is always watching recognizable and understandable human beings (except for the slippery villain Nick Shadow, which is how it should be). The sad destiny of Tom and his beloved Anne is very moving but not overdone, just as Nick wears his villainy lightly and with charm.
The great performance here is Samuel Ramey, on the brink of world stardom, as Nick. No one has sung this role as well, his sound is improbably gorgeous, his words are abundantly clear, his phrasing is musical. His interpretation is buoyant with a slightly smarmy smile and some elegance of manner but his curse of Tom has immense force. On the issue of 'interpreting' Nick, well there, others have sometimes been more inventive, but as a whole Ramey is thrilling.
Rosalind Elias is well above average as Baba, and sympathetic, which is important in the part but hard to achieve. Van Allen fairly early in what would be a long career has good resonance and presence as Trulove, and only Mother Goose and the Auctioneer are merely solid.
The two leads are good, not perfect, but very moving. Lott, early in a long career, has a less well focused tone than she would display later and does not do the great scene that ends act one in quite the thrilling style of say Hilde Gueden (from the Met broadcast of the opera's premiere season in that house) or more recently, Dorothea Roeschmann live. But her simple, direct manner works very well in the last scene, which is crucial.
Goeke does very well, all considered, it's a long and tricky part. As with Lott there is some lack of glamor in his sound except when he uses a very lovely head voice but his singing is clean, stylish and he is a fine musician. As with Lott, sincerity is his strong suit, and it works very well. Both of these singers are very understandable as human beings, she unrealistically faithful, he foolish but fundamentally decent and both are loving. At the end they are devastating.
Some more off beat productions attest to the opera's durability and ability to fascinate an audience. But this is so true to the spirit of the work and so wonderfully realized it's impossible to do without it if one has any response to the work at all."