Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress

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1.0 out of 5 star rating 1.0

COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: Arthaus
ALBUM TITLE: Stravinsky
WORKS: The Rake’s Progress
PERFORMER: Hadley, Upshaw, Pederson/Sylvain Cambreling; dir. Peter Mussbach (Salzburg Festival, 1996)
If for nothing else, this DVD would be ruled out of play because of Jerry Hadley’s lachrymose, effortful and persistently ill-tuned Tom. Like Monte Pederson’s equally off-pitch Nick, this rake wouldn’t know a legato line if he tripped over one, while their joint ideas of neo-classical style owe more to the movie Amadeus than to Con fan tutte, Stravinsky’s own model. As for Auden and Kallman’s elegant, mock-18th-century dialogue, they mangle it as only Americans (pace Frasier’s brothers Crane) know how. What with the orchestra’s rhythmically flabby contribution under Sylvain Cambreling and notwithstanding Dawn Upshaw’s sweetly sung, if slightly too showsongy, Anne, this 1996 Salzburg Festival performance is a musical non-starter. Scenically, it’s even worse. Peter Mussbach’s production (faithfully filmed by the ubiquitous Brian Large) is a typical piece of Continental off-the-peg would-be chic, set in a primary-coloured child’s playroom/avant-garde art installation. Hadley is a pop-art action-painter, dressed up in jeans, T-shirt and tattoos, like some flaccid, over-the-hill Fonz; Upshaw is his model/muse, dolled up in blonde curls; Nick has cross-hatched checks and a heart-shaped beauty spot. A bunch of actors in monkey suits and trainers push bits of set (a giant model airplane, an oversized cotton-reel) around, before filling the bunks of a Belsen-style Bedlam. It’s all so mad, the true bizarreries in the text (bearded lady, bread-making machine et al) go for naught. As with ENO’s recent staging, the interval is moved, so ruining the show’s best joke (and if you don’t already know, don’t bother buying this DVD to find out). Mark Pappenheim