wed 07/12/2016

Stravinsky, The Rake's Progress, Glyndebourne | reviews, news & interviews

Stravinsky, The Rake's Progress, Glyndebourne

Stravinsky, The Rake's Progress, Glyndebourne

We're still humming Hockney's sets but are the accents intrusive?

'The Rake's Progress': 'we went out humming the sets and probably always will'

Thirty-five years on and this is still as much David Hockney’s Rake as it is Stravinsky’s or W H Auden’s. How rarely it is that what we see chimes so completely and utterly with what we hear. The limited palette of colours, the precisely etched cross-hatching, the directness and the cunningly conceived elements of parody – am I talking about Hockney or Stravinsky? Two great individualists in complete harmony. So why the disconnection? Is it my admittedly ambivalent relationship with Stravinsky’s dazzling score – so easy to admire, so much harder to love – an imbalance in the casting for this timely revival, or those gaping pauses between scene changes?

The strains of a lullaby so simple and so deeply affecting that you wonder, as with Mozart, how Stravinsky did it

Share this article

Comments

Was at the performance yesterday. Topi Lethipuu, whom I have heard many times, seemed to me to be a little under the weather. I am sure that he will firing on all cylinders soon. Matthew Rose was in glorious vocal form and am sure that his already excellent characterisation will continue to grow. The chorus were outstanding I thought. A great production and a very good performance

Edward's comments about accent and rhythm are spot-on, also about Lethipuu's doing best in the final scene, where a lighter, lyrical tone prevails. But it may also be true that he was under the weather. At the dress I gather he marked onstage while another singer sang from the wings. The chorus, agreed, were superb. As for the long scene breaks, Stravinsky would have agreed with Seckerson. He was furious about this at the Venice premiere. Covent Garden got it right recently, but only by setting the opera in the Nevada Desert - not ideal for the music's green shoots.

I won't see the opera until next week. But I do think it kind of ethnocentric to emphasize so much on singers' accents, especially when their overall diction is clear. The opera world will suffer a great deal if great singers only sing operas written in their native language.

I'm afraid Alice is missing the point about accent. It's got to do with understanding the subtle accentuation of Stravinsky's word-setting, which (Edward is saying, I think, and I agree with him) foreign singers tend not to get, unless their English is immaculate. This isn't ethno-anything, it's a straightforward musical criticism. Lethipuu was weak in this department in important arias like "Since it is not by merit" and "Thanks to this excellent device". His Finnish accent was neither here nor there; it was his Finnish accentuation that led him astray. But maybe, as we've said, he was below par...

Agreed, Edward and Stephen (and not because I feel any need to back up experienced colleagues). I was there too and wondered if perhaps an announcement should have been made for Lehtipuu's recent indisposition, for I've heard him sing better than just quite well. But the role is surprisingly strenuous, and Langridge, Tear, Hadley and even the first Glyndebourne Tom, Leo Goeke (American?) were better able to push the boundaries (watching the DVD of the 1970s Glyndebourne cast closes the gaps between scenes, a real drawback as Edward says). And Stravinsky's purposefully wrong-footing the singers in his unorthodox stresses does make it difficult for those excellent artists whose first language isn't English. The bottom line, though, is that on the first night the performances weren't as energised or focused as the ones given by the Don Giovanni team the next evening, which struck me as excellent throughout and with absolutely the best Donna Anna (Anna Samuil) and Don Ottavio (William Burden - a strong potential Tom Rakewell?) I've ever heard on a stage. No doubt, as Mary points out, the Rake will spark eventually.

I think it is so harsh to judge these foreign singers in such a way. Their english was astounding (except for Baba's) and I was so impressed. How do our British singers sound when they are abroad. And are they judged so harshly? I loved the performance and think that it must be such a hard opera to pull off. But with this production they have much to help them.

Completely agree Topi's English is impeccable, in fact I challenge anyone to decipher his non-native status. And, goodness me, look at what we offer the world: Lesley Garrett, Katherine Jenkins, Felicity Lott, cringe, cringe, cringe.

I attended the performance on Wednesday and was so incredibly impressed by all involved. Matthew Rose really outdid himself as the evil and yet funny Nick Shadow. I really hope to return before the end of the run.

Very much enjoyed this review, astute and observes several things about the piece (and the nature of performing it) that most reviewers do not comment on. I just became aware of Topi Lehtipuu, and I think your comments about Tom Rakewell being "a much heavier sing than is often acknowledged" are exactly correct. Anyhow... thanks for a great and observant review.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters