I have little to add to the well-merited praise lavished on this recording of one of my favourite operas. The Hockney sets have become almost canonical and both this and the earlier Glyndebourne release richly merit a place in any opera lover's collection. In an ideal world, I would be able mix the two and have Topi Lehtipuu as Tom, Sam Ramey as Shadow and Felicity Lott as Anne. But the cast in this version is excellent with Matthew Rose rivalling Ramey's trademark sardonicism with a touch of characterful humour.
Greetings from the high desert of Southern California! This title is not available in the U.S. Happily this disc is "All Region" and I could order it directly from Amazon UK. It is a pity that the best production of Stravinsky's one opera should not be available here since it was composed in Los Angeles, California, USA.
This production respects the composer's intentions in every way. The sets reflect the 18th century paintings that inspired the piece and are especially well served by Blu Ray high definition. The period costumes are beautifully designed to draw the characters into the sets, or "pictures", and are a delight to look at.
(This certainly is an improvement over the other Blu Ray offering of this piece that sets the piece in modern day Texas complete with cattle and oil barrons! I couldn't watch - it was such a contradiction to the music and to the mood of the piece. I'm sure the production team for that production thought they were being very clever - but they succeeded only in confusing and confounding their audience!)
The singers in this production are also a delight - to see as well as to hear. The characters are young, compulsive and enthusiastic, so it is wonderful to have singers who bring these physical and vocal qualities to their roles. The orchestra plays brilliantly and the conductor paces each scene perfectly. This is truly an ideal production that is brought to life beautifully on Blu Ray.
The Rake's Progress was written in 1951 and first performed and staged in Vienna by Carl Ebert who was also Glyndebourne's first director of productions. Subsequently Glyndebourne staged the opera with similar Italianate designs in 1953, introducing a further staging in 1963 but this time with cartoon-influenced designs by Osbert Lancaster. This progression of change led to the current Hogarth inspired designs by David Hockney which were first seen at Glyndebourne in 1975 and were an instant hit. Since then there have been five revivals of this production and this latest performance was recorded in 2010.
Stravinsky was inspired to write the opera by seeing the group of Hogarth's 1735 creation entitled `The Rake's Progress' so it seems wholly appropriate that this production has returned to the creative root of the composition so to speak. The result is a perfect blend of ancient and modern which has avoided any aging process over the intervening 35 years and which allows the fable to relate effortlessly to the current audience generation.
The cast on this occasion is absolutely outstanding. Topi Lehtipuu as Tom Rakewell and Miah Persson as Anne Trulove retain an engaging youthful freshness throughout despite Tom's steady decline. Matthew Rose is an effective and menacingly likeable Nick Shadow and Elena Manistina keeps a light touch as Baba the Turk. Clive Bailey as Father Trulove provides the necessary steadying voice of good reason and Susan Gorton as Mother Goose is more than a match for the guileless Tom in the brothel scene. The chorus in the brothel and madhouse scenes is excellent. All concerned both sing and act their parts with utter conviction and with evident enjoyment in the music. This enjoyment readily transfers onto disc as well as to the amused and enthusiastic Glyndebourne audience.
The imaging is crisp in the manner of HD productions and has a great sense of `presence'. The sound is presented in DTS-HD and stereo and is well able to capture the excellence of the London Philharmonic's playing under the ever-watchful eye and precise direction of conductor Vladimir Jurowski.
There are two short but informative documentary extras which provide an introduction to the opera and this particular production as well as a cast gallery typical of Opus Arte productions.
I personally enjoyed this performance and production enormously and found the recording to be ideal and of very high quality throughout. In my opinion this is a clear 5 star benchmark issue and I would expect it to give equal enormous pleasure to all purchasers.
Few productions seem so perfectly matched and strike such a perfect balance between the intentions of the opera work and its presentation on the stage as David Hockney's designs for the classic Glyndebourne production of Igor Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress. The measure of the success of the production is that it was first put on at Glyndebourne in 1975 and, as this 2010 performance at the festival shows, it is still delighting and wowing audiences thirty-five years later and will no doubt continue to be revived for many more years. There aren't many productions that have that kind of staying power. A modern artist surely not to everyone's taste, one might expect something relatively avant-garde from David Hockney when called upon to design the set for a 20th century opera, but in reality, his approach almost perfectly mirrors Stravinsky's method of composition for The Rake's Progress. Seeking inspiration directly from the source of William Hogarth original drawings made in the 1730s, Hockney's sets reproduce the intricate cross-hatching in bold, colourful strokes on flat board backdrops - a modern interpretation of a classical design.
It works so well because, after all, that's exactly what Stravinsky's opera does also. Composed in 1951, the composer working in the neo-classical form (before he moved on to serial composition), The Rake's Progress accordingly plays to the conventions of the 18th century opera. Classically structured into three acts, with three scenes in each, Stravinsky's 20th century composition even uses recitative with harpsichord continuo and da capo arias in his treatment of a subject that has many resonances with Mozart's operas. Since it wears its references openly, the names of the characters even reflecting their types - Tom Rakewell leaving behind his beloved Anne Trulove on the instigation of his demonic alter-ego Nick Shadow for a life of dissolution in London - The Rake's Progress can be an opera that is easier to admire more than to really love. It's all very clever but a little dull and constricting, and the opera can consequently be a little static when performed.
There are however compensating factors that prevent The Rake's Progress from being merely a pastiche that is too clever for its own good, not least of which is a beautiful libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman and some fascinating arrangements by Stravinsky, but what this particular Glyndebourne production has going for it is of course the production by David Hockney and John Cox. Every scene is an absolute delight, breathtaking in some places, with marvellous little touches that bring out the humour of the situations well. Vladimir Jurowski treats the opera very much as a Russian work, while being mindful of its English and international aspects. These are brought out fully in the casting and the singing, which is of fine quality throughout, with Miah Persson and Topi Lehtipuu demonstrating perfect English diction. If their acting performances are unremarkable and a little static, it's probably more a failing with the nature of the opera itself - but there are enough compensating factors in the singing, the staging and the performance to make this a highly entertaining experience.
Depending on your set-up, there might be some minor aliasing in the costumes, but the transfer copes well with all the cross-hatching. Otherwise, the full impact of the colourful production is visible in the High Definition transfer and in the actual filming. The LPCM Stereo and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 tracks capture the detail of the musical performance brilliantly and dynamically. Extra features include a Cast Gallery, a brief Introduction to the Rake's Progress that contains recent interviews with Hockney and Cox about the production, and a wider look at the opera in a 12-minute Behind the Rake's Progress featurette.
Every now and again there comes an occasion when one runs out of superlatives to describe productions, and this is one such production! Everything about it is excellent; this is a revival of the famous 1975 Glyndebourne production with costumes and sets designed by David Hockney which he based on the original cartoons of Hogarth. True the cross hatching is a tele visual nightmare as it can flair occasionally, but it is a design masterpiece! The performances throughout are superb, there is not a single weak link in the production, the three main protagonists are as well balanced a trio as you could wish for, Topi Lehtipuu is an apt Tom with Miah Persson as his beautiful Trulove, although for me it is Matthew Rose as Nick Shadow, the Mefostofele figure of the opera, who stands out! The Glyndebourne Chorus is in really good form as are the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Vladimir Jurowski The extras are good also, along with the usual cast gallery, we get two short films, one, a discussion with the director, Johan Cox, Vladimir Jurowski and David Hockney about the staging of the opera, the other, a behind the scenes with contributions from cast members as well as the Cox and Hockney, I must admit, I could have listened to more Hockney discussing the work and his designs! All in all, from start to finish this production is a real joy, one which I will no doubt get hours of pleasure from in the future, and one which whole heartedly recommend!
I am not a great admirer of Stravinsky's neoclassicism but after having read about David Hockney's staging directly inspired by Hogarth's drawings I was curious. And what a pleasant surprise! The designs work extremely well as a visual counterpart to Stravinsky's music and are captured with state of art picture quality. Hockney’s set designs are perfect in capturing not only the essence but the actual look and feel of Hogarth’s original line drawings that inspired the opera, and director John Cox has created a wonderful stage experience. The sets use lots of cross-hatching for shading, sometimes in garish colour and sometimes in print-like black-and-white. The costumes, too, have a similar look. Only Bedlam disappoints me, its inmates, grotesquely masked, are ranked in strange boxes behind the action, practically immobile. The production is far removed from the tired attempts at reinterpretation that mar so many contemporary stagings. The price to be paid is a certain clinical sterility.
Topi Lehtipuu and Miah Persson make a wholly believable and vocally attractive Tom Rakewell and Anne Trulove. Miah Persson is a lovely, blond Anne Trulove, with angelic high notes and sure intonation to handle the dissonances. By the final scene, shocked at Tom's irretrievable madness, she is singing with beauty and great reserves of breath. Topi Lehtipuu gets all of Tom’s wide-eyed innocence, vocally and physically. The confrontation between Tom and Anne on the steps of his townhouse is heart-rending. They are matched by the snarling Nick Shadow of Matthew Rose, vocally and dramatically outstanding. The smaller roles are beautifully taken, and the chorus sings and acts splendidly, and the orchestra plays magnificently under the inspiring direction of Vladimir Jurowski.