Igor Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress is due to premiere on the Bolshoi Theater's New Stage on Thursday, Feb. 19th. The theatre's press office said the scenery for the performance was designed by Dmitry Chernyakov; Alexander Titov will be the music director.
The Rake's Progress is an opus of unprecedented duration for Stravinsky - under his own direction the opera would take 140 minutes 51 second. It owes something to an eponymous series of William Hogarth engravings the composer saw at an exhibition in Chicago in May 1947. The eight engravings in the set inspired Stravinsky to write an 'eighteenth century opera" without taking any particular care to modernise or update it.
The plot is a moralistic story of a frivolous young man squandering a huge windfall inheritance and descending into ruin and madhouse. The opera is painstakingly narrated in a delicious old style, with details not always possible in a classical opera thrown in for good measure.
Perhaps the biggest of these, both literally and figuratively, is the Turk Woman, a bearded monster of a lady, whom protagonist Tom Rakewell marries to show off his boundless freedom to everyone. More than a cheeky blabbermouth prone to pop diva-style antics, the eccentric Woman actually turns out to be a humane and noble being who comforts and encourages her rival Ann, who stays devoted to Tom, effectively collapsing the incipient love triangle.
No worse is auctioneer Sellem. While essentially a minor character, his brilliant aria is one of the performance's best features.
The crucial, originally non-existent motif is the figure of Nick Shadow who personifies the Devil tempting Tom into selling his soul in return for riches and worldly pleasures.
Stravinsky genuinely admired The Rake's Progress libretto, which he believed to be on a par with the great paradigms created by Lorenzo Da Ponte for Mozart operas.
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