(Saffran wrote her thoughts after a recent performance.)
I walked out at intermission last night at The Rake's Progress. It was so disheartening to see Paul Appleby whom I know singing such derivative, decadent music, and it was a waste of time for the rest of the superb cast as well. The plot may be based on Hogarth, but it's better as illustrations. The Met's production was stark with overly large sets and trite use of color – gee, the Devil character Nick Shadow wears black. If the Met wants a bit of shock, they should revive Marschner's Der Vampyr that has much better music. Wagner borrowed the leit motif idea and a theme or two from it.
As to the opera–it was drug induced.
“Stravinsky–behaviour modification drugs –
The Russian-American master is quoted in his final recorded interview as saying, ‘countless unsuccessful experiments with behaviour modification drugs have had a deleterious effect on me,’ and he became obsessed with medicine as he himself suffered more health problems.
WH Auden and drugs -
The poet W.H. Auden is probably the most famous example. He took a dose of Benzedrine (a brand name of amphetamine introduced in the United States in 1933) each morning the way many people take a daily multivitamin. At night, he used Seconal or another sedative to get to sleep. He continued this routine—‘the chemical life,’ he called it—for 20 years, until the efficacy of the pills finally wore off.”
Visit the Met: http://www.metopera.org/opera/the-rake%27s-progress-stravinsky-tickets
© 2015 by Patty Saffran. All rights reserved.
The Rake's Progress
Approximate running time 3 hrs. 10 min.
James Levine revisits one of his favorite 20th-century classics: Stravinsky’s only full-length opera, with its wondrous neo-classical score, back on the Met stage for the first time in 12 years. Paul Appleby adds another leading role as Tom Rakewell, opposite Layla Claire as Anne Trulove, Stephanie Blythe as the bearded lady Baba the Turk, and Gerald Finley as the devilish Nick Shadow.