The Rake's Progress, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

4.00

Stravinsky's morality tale is given a spirited and purposeful reading by singers and orchestra alike

Reproduced in the programme for David McVicar's Scottish Opera production of The Rake's Progress, William Hogarth's paintings Before and After (1730-31) are a bromide to those inflamed by amatory desires. In the first image, a young man woos his sweetheart in a grassy grove, both figures carefully and fashionably dressed, their kiss-curls just so. In the second, the lovers are in a state of post-coital dishevelment, his breeches undone, her underwear discarded. Were this Watteau, their faces would be flushed with pleasure. Instead, both look lost, aghast, the young man's eyes gazing into an unknowable future.

McVicar's Rake opens in a miniature 18th-century theatre, its painted backdrop echoing the secretive greens of Before and After. Inspired by Hogarth's 1735 series A Rake's Progress and written to W H Auden and Chester Kallman's pitch-perfect facsimile of a Henry Fielding satire, Stravinsky's 1951 opera has been called brittle, arch, even cold. Its tart epilogue has come in for particular criticism, not least for snapping the terrible pathos of the Bedlam scene. McVicar and his designer, John Macfarlane, play merrily with the artifice and spectacle of the rise and fall of Tom Rakewell, offering a brothel scene of Gilrayesque excess, but never forget the lost young man in Hogarth's After. This young man is Tom (Edgaras Montvidas). And for every flourish of vulgarity, every ghoulish memento mori, every parry of whip or dildo (all of which is as expected from McVicar), there is a gasp of sorrow only felt in his best work.

The seriousness of this Rake is quickly felt in Siâ* Edwards' meticulous conducting and the orchestra's subtle shadings. In the splintered baroque styling of Stravinsky's score, with its mustard-hot brass, spider's web recitatives and espaliered woodwind, it is the chaste strings that temper our passions and warn of Bedlam, where "Banker, beggar, whore and wit/In a common darkness sit".

Stravinsky is particularly generous to the alto range, lavishing lachrymose suspensions on the violas and the tipsy lower-voiced Whores, and making Baba the Turk (Leah-Marian Jones) the only character to combine worldly experience with a warm and sensible heart. Jones is lucky in her pert costume and chattering chimpanzee sidekicks. Saddled with an unidentifiable accent (Gorbals? 'Allo, 'Allo?) and dwarfed by udder-like false breasts and acres of fuchsia tulle, Karen Murray's Mother Goose is less sympathetic, an incomprehensible distaff accomplice of Steven Page's clipped, frigid Shadow. The Whores and Roaring Boys are a constant, moving upmarket with Tom, cheering his bankruptcy, mocking his madness, to the dismay of Carolyn Sampson's fragile, girlish Anne and her dour father, Trulove (Graeme Broadbent).

If sensation is your object, there is much to enjoy: the pretty lies of 18th- century stage machinery, the chamber pot chalice of wine, the piping pistons of Tom's bread machine, the hoodlum antics of the chimps, unflagging movement direction and choreography (Andrew George). This is an ensemble piece, created for Scottish Opera by Scots. But its heartbeat is that of the Lithuanian tenor who uninhibitedly lives Tom's infatuations, his pubescent sense of entitlement, his pride, self-indulgence and deranged, venereal shame. True, it is odd to hear this lazy, spendthrift English character's words sung in an accent popularly associated with thrift and industry. But to hear Stravinsky's music sung with such a sense of line and colour, such dash and élan, such opulence and intensity, is revelatory.

 

Last Glasgow performance today, 4pm; Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (0131-529 6000) 27, 29 and 31 Mar)

Classical choice

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts the LPO and Lisa Batiashvili in Mozart's Violin Concerto No 3 and Mahler's Ninth Symphony, at London's Festival Hall (Wed). At Symphony Halls, Birmingham, Andris Nelsons, Anna Vinnitskaya and the CBSO swoon in Wagner's Prelude & Liebestod, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 4 and Sibelius's Symphony No 2 (Thu).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

    Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

    ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
    Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

    Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

    Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
    'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
    BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

    BBC Television Centre

    A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
    Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

    My George!

    Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
    10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world