Discover the themes of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress

The story of an ambitious youth corrupted by the temptations of pleasure and greed is of course a common one throughout literature and art, perhaps most famously in Goethe’s Faust. Stravinsky and Auden’s take on this familiar genre is to focus on the redemptive power of love. This version is truly a
moral fable, even if Tom’s redemption is only partial – he finds peace and love, but only in madness.

Moreover, the opera is seen by some as an allegory for Second World War and its destruction of Western culture. In this view, Tom’s arrival in Bedlam represents Western civilisation arriving in the chaos and horror of war. In the immediate post-war period, people were only too conscious of the insanity to which greed and ambition could lead, a consciousness in which the threat of the recently created nuclear bomb loomed large. According to this interpretation, then, The Rake’s Progress is a warning that while the Second World War might be over, human folly remains as potent a force as ever.

In this video, Glyndebourne’s Opera Content Consultant, Alexandra Coghlan, meets Glyndebourne’s archivist, Phil Boot, to explore the opera in more depth.

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