Robert LePage's production of The Rake's Progress is currently at Covent Garden. The reviews seem mixed, Rupert Christiansen found the production dull, but Warwick Thompson found it magical. I should have liked to hear John Relyea sing Nick Shadow, as I found James Morris a bit boring in that role last year.
The Rake's Progress
December 4 2008- January 15 2009: Don Carlo
January 16- February 3 2009: The Makropoulos Case
February 5-25 2009: Tristan und Isolde
March 10-27 2009: Alcina
March 24- April 4 2009: I Due Foscari
April 7- May 10 2009: Il Viaggio a Reims
April 24- May 17 2009: The Rake's Progress
May 22- June 12 2009: Assassino nella Cattedrale
June 6-17 2009: A Midsummer Night's Dream
June 20- July 8 2009: Aida
July 13-17 2009: Eugene Onegin (Bolshoi)
September 19- October 6 2009: Orfeo
October 15-30 2009: Idomeneo
La Scala announced their 2008-2009 season today. Dolora Zajick is singing Eboli in Don Carlo. Waltraud Meier sings Isolde, with Daniel Barenboim conducting. Barenboim also conducts Aida next season. Salvatore Licitra shares the role of Radames (Aida) with Walter Fraccaro.The production of The Rake's Progress is the same Lepage one inspired by Giant we had in San Francisco this season. David Daniels sings opposite of Rosemary Joshua in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
June 4- July 5 2008: L'incoronazione di Dario
June 7- July 4 2008: Così fan Tutte
June 19- July 6 2008: The Rake's Progress
Garsington Opera presents the British premiere of Vivaldi's L'incoronazione di Dario this summer, along with the works of Mozart and Stravinsky.
* Notes *
The Rake's Progress closed today with a Sunday matinée, and to my surprise, I attended, as I was offered a seat from a friend. This season I have avoided Sunday performances, as they are extraordinarily popular. Also, the last performances at the end of the year are crowded, after my experience with the closing of Carmen last year, I was not too keen on experiencing something like that again. The staging went well today, I did not hear any stage managers and the only thing that was really loud was when they were placing the trailer. The set is clever, and this production is a testament to how one can have both novelty and invention without distracting from the drama and music. The only truly weak part may have been the Bedlam scene, though I appreciate that the persistence of certain stage elements must have been important to the set designer and director. The sunken area of the lunatic asylum is clearly the same space delineated in the earlier swimming pool scene. Unfortunately, having the singers in that small space, the chorus and the principals, was strange. Worse, it cut them off from the audience, and lowered the dramatic tension. Perhaps the scene read better in the balcony.
The orchestra sounded better than opening night, but not quite up to their very best. I consistently found both James Morris (Nick Shadow) and Trulove (Kevin Langan) more difficult to hear than the other lead singers. Morris has had perfect comic timing throughout. Langan's acting was good, suitably skeptical of Tom in the beginning, sympathetic at the madhouse. Denyce Graves had a huge presence and I especially adored her in "You Love Him, Seek To Set Him Right." At times her voice was somewhat harsh, but it was fine for this role. Laura Aikin's high notes were lovely, her Anne Trulove never had too much vibrato. William Burden was marvelous in the title role, his voice lucid and his acting brilliant.
* Tattling *
A young woman in Box W arrived late, and she took off one of her shoes and put her foot on an empty chair. She was unable to do this during the second half of the opera, as people were seated in the second row (she was in the third). After the opera, I noticed she was limping, so it was probably a sprain.
The costume for Nick Shadow in his last scene is a red unitard covered with strips of material. I believe it is meant to make him look as if he is being consumed in flames, but to me it just looks like a chicken suit.
For my own amusement, I tried to dress like a 1940s Hollywood starlet, wearing my hair in the manner of Veronica Lake. Baritone Frederick Matthews complimented my shoes.
Someone one pulled a fire alarm just a few minutes before yesterday's performance of The Rake's Progress was to begin, so we all had to file out and everything started half an hour late. This hasn't happened in awhile, but I remember a rash of fire alarm pulling in 2005. Later, everyone laughed at the recorded message reminding us to locate the nearest exit in case of an emergency. The cast still sounded very good, despite the delay.
Today standing room was quite full for Racette's last performance of Madama Butterfly this season. Before the performance, David Gockley came on stage, and reassured us everyone would still be singing. He lead us in applause, recorded for a possible DVD or some such thing. He used the word vociferous more than once. I don't think I can convey how absurd this was. The performance itself was strong, and I was able to appreciate Racette and Jovanovich more, having seen the second cast.
There were signs that informed the audience the would be recorded, the language used was really quite amusing, and thankfully I got a photograph of it. I especially like the sentence "By attending this event, you are consenting and hereby grant permission to San Francisco Opera or its designees, and its employees, successors, and assignees, licensees and agents to utilize your appearance, image, voice, and likeness, in perpetuity, in any and all manner and form and format of media throughout the world, now known or hereafter devised, including but not limited to recordings, broadcasts, or webcasts of the event you are attending."
* Notes *
Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress opened yesterday in a co-production with Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Opéra de Lyon, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and Teatro Real Madrid. The opera was taken from the 16th century into the 1950s, so taken from when Hogarth's paintings are set to when the opera was premiered. The effect makes Stravinsky's self-consciously Baroque/Classical style, complete with harpsichord, somewhat nonsensical. The English countryside is reimagined as Texas, Nick Shadow takes Tom Rakewell to London to become a movie star. Carl Fillion's sets are exceedingly charming, it seems that every scene had something terribly clever in it as far as staging. Especially amusing were the bed that Tom and Mother Goose dally in, the inflatable movie trailer, the dollhouse meant to represent the Trulove home, Anne's flyaway scarf as she makes her way to London, and the swimming pool of the Rakewell home. Boris Firquet's video design was excellently incorporated, the scene changes that used this were seamless, and the only time the rather horizontal screen really bothered me was the movie marquee scene (Act II Scene 2), because naturally the eyes go up to see the rest of the building, and it is just blank black space. The lighting design, by Etienne Boucher, was blinding as Nick Shadow filmed Tom in Act I Scene 2, but was otherwise good.
Runnicles and the orchestra were not in their best form, they overwhelmed the singers, they were not always together, and the horns sounded rough. Both William Burden (Tom Rakewell) and Laura Aikin (Anne Trulove) sounded clear and bright. Burden sang quite plaintively, and Aikin sounded perfectly angelic and bell-like. James Morris was a placid Nick Shadow, his lower notes were slightly gravelly, though his higher range was pretty. Denyce Graves played Baba the Turk to a tee, her powerful voice has a wonderful warmth and was appropriately gruff in this role. In the smaller roles, tenor Steven Cole stood out as Sellem, his acting in the auction scene was hilarious, and though he was slightly quiet when he moved upstage, his voice is pleasing. Besides Ms. Graves and Mr. Cole, the acting of the principals was rather subdued. It was difficult to see how Tom's actions were motivated, Morris was particularly ambiguous, in playing the Devil himself, though unctuous, he did seem rather cold and bored.
* Tattling *
Because this opera opened the day after Thanksgiving and my family is not in the Bay Area, I had to convince a friend to get a ticket for me in the morning. Someone managed to sneak past her into the building and I got the following text message at 10:22 am: I had to beat a queue-cutting coot to get your #1 ticket. I hope you're happy!
Standing room was only moderately full, and the rest of audience was somewhat sparse. Everyone was pretty quiet, I heard no watch alarms on the hour. Someone tore paper at one point in Act I, but this was only for a few seconds. The sign asking people exit from the side doors during the performance was knocked over twice. There was much applause for the set, and this obscured the music more than once.