WORKS: The Rake’s Progress
PERFORMER: Dawn Upshaw, Jerry Hadley, Samuel Ramey, Grace Bumbry, Robert Lloyd, Anne Collins, Steven Cole; Lyon Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Kent Nagano
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-12715-2 DDD
Perhaps it’s Dawn Upshaw’s fine singing that makes a point about The Rake’s Progress being as much the tragedy of Anne Trulove as of Tom Rakewell. Little reward she receives for her virtuous devotion. Yet this Anne can take it. In the lullaby ‘Gently, little boat’, her song blends serenely with the unhurried woodwind counterpoint. She has come through.
Of the other fine portraits of Anne, not as a delicate flower but as a full-blooded heroine, the most notable is her Act I recitative, ‘Has love no voice?’. Though Stravinsky stretches the singer in extremes of register, Upshaw welds coloratura heights and near-mezzo depths into a stunning emotional presence. Just why she loves Rakewell is of no account in this opera of manners. Even so, Jerry Hadley’s Tom sounds winsomely forgivable and, from the evidence of his Act II recitative, ‘My heart is cold’, less a villain than a dupe to Samuel Ramey’s enticing Nick Shadow. Grace Bumbry does a splendid Baba; Steven Cole is less exceptional as Sellem.
Kent Nagano’s tempi preserve the work’s chamber-music textures while binding scenes into a unified whole. Balance is occasionally eccentric; in the Act II Prelude, clarinets are in your face while the horn seems trapped in another room.