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Introducing… The Rake’s Progress

In this instalment of our Introducing series we take a look at John Cox’s production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, a Glyndebourne classic designed by David Hockney.

In this instalment of our Introducing… series we take a look at John Cox’s production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, a Glyndebourne Classic designed by David Hockney.

A brief introduction

Igor Stravinsky’s only full-length opera, The Rake’s Progress (1951), is also one of the most original and provocative of the twentieth century. Wit and postmodern irony meet a classic moral fable in a work librettist WH Auden described as a ‘mixture of fairy story and medieval morality play’.

Rejecting the dissonant, confrontationally avant-garde style of The Rite of Spring in favour of an apparently nostalgic, neo-classical one, the opera takes both its soundworld and structure from baroque and classical models. But all is not as it first appears.

Why not to miss this production

This Hockney-designed production premiered in 1975. It has never left the Glyndebourne repertoire and has toured to opera houses around the world.

For many, this production is the definitive production of the opera. ‘The whole point of Hockney’s design is that it looks like a living Hogarth etching’ says our Archivist Phil Boot. In the video above, he tells Alexandra Coghlan more about how Glyndebourne’s collaboration with the artist came about.

In 2019, the production returns to Glyndebourne for the first time in over a decade, offering a whole new generation the chance to enjoy it. In the video, we caught up with bass Matthew Rose, who plays the devil himself in the guise of Nick Shadow, to find out what it is about Stravinsky’s opera that he loves and how much he enjoys singing what he calls ‘one of the great librettos of any opera ever written’.

A great moment to look out for

The Graveyard Scene (Act III, Scene 2) is one of opera’s most chilling moments – where we see the true reveal of Nick Shadow’s devilish nature. At its heart is the duet for Nick and Tom ‘Well, Then’ in which they play a game of chance: Tom must stake his life on guessing the three cards Nick cuts. Much of the duet is accompanied only by harpsichord (echoes of Don Giovanni’s own graveyard scene) whose sinister clatter brings an eerie quality to proceedings. Music that collides and superimposes clashing major and minor keys makes your skin and ears crawl as Nick Shadow tricks Tom to his eventual doom.

Cast and creative team

Jakub Hrůša conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra and an exciting cast. American tenor Ben Bliss makes his Festival debut as Tom Rakewell. Louise Alder will sing Anne Trulove and Jennifer Johnston will sing Baba the Turk. Glyndebourne favourite Matthew Rose returns as the menacing Nick Shadow, which he played to great acclaim in Festival 2010.

Supported by
Ms Linda Christmas in memory of her husband John Higgins
and a Syndicate and Circle of Individuals

Deepen your relationship with Glyndebourne. Find out more about supporting Festival 2020.


Image credits: Artwork by Shadric Toop | The Rake’s Progress, Festival 2010. Photo: Alastair Muir

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