Stravinsky: The Rake’s progress

COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Stravinsky
WORKS: The Rake’s progress
PERFORMER: Laura Claycomb, Andrew Kennedy, Willian Shimell, Julianne Young, Dagmar Peckova; La Monnaie Chorus & SO/Kazushi Ono; dir. Robert Lepage (Brussels 2007)
How long will producers go on calling the tune in operatic events? This version, from Brussels, of Stravinsk’y largest though not greatest work is the latest victim. The air the piece breathes, both in the Augustan pastiche of Auden and Kaamn’s libretto,and in the composer’s own last tribute to the Classical musical tradition before he moved on to very different territory, is so redolent of the 18th century that it seems perverse to place it in Las Vegas in the 1950s, as Robert Lepage has done, with stetsons, risqué revue turns and black and white TB – the bread machine of the original here becomes a television set. Musically it is first-rate. Andrew Kennedy in particular sings the Rake superbly. However in this production William Shimell plays Nick Sharol as a showbiz astronaut, while the Anne Truelove of Laura Claycomb is pure film noir headscarf. But when we arrive at the graveyard scene and then the incredibly moving mad scene in Bedlam, it is all so wonderful that I felt it had been worth persevering. As with the work itself, the last half hour or this production is on a different and far higher plane. And the sympathetic conductor, kazushi ono, abandons himself to the haunting lyricism of this surprising music.