Striking Rake’s Progress at Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires

ArgentinaArgentina Stravinsky, The Rake’s Progress: Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Colón / Kakhi Solomnishvili (conductor). Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 26.7.2023. (JSJ)

Teatro Colón’s new The Rake’s Progress © Prensa Teatro Colón / Arnaldo Colombaroli

Direction – Alfredo Arias
Scenery – Julia Freid
Lighting – Matías Sendón
Costumes – Julio Suárez
Chorus – Miguel Martínez

Tom Rakewell – Ben Bliss
Nick Shadow – Christopher Purves
Anne Trulove – Andrea Carroll
Baba the Turk – Patricia Bardon
Father Trulove – Hernán Iturralde
Mother Goose – Alejandra Malvino
Sellem – Darío Schmunck
Keeper of the Madhouse – Alejandro Spies

Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress, his only full-length opera, although quite widely performed is not one of the most popular on the circuit – but it proved so in Buenos Aires that an additional fifth production was added to the sold-out programmed four, with the only change being the Georgian Kakhi Solomnishvili as conductor rather than Charles Dutoit of the others.

And it made for a striking production, with an interesting but entirely convincing juxtaposition of its time, the eighteenth century of William Hogarth’s series of paintings of the same name on which the work is based, with the present.

In this vein the scenery comprised a single semi-circular platform with a cupola above, while the main characters were dressed in the ‘period’ but the majority of the others more modernly.

Producer Alfredo Arias stated that the presentation was intended to represent Shadow as a ‘voice’ going round in Tom’s head, or his ‘dark side’, and yes, although I wouldn’t probably have made the association without being told, despite his presence in the background from the start.

In this role Christopher Purves provided a commanding performance, slipping effortlessly between scheming and persuasive and subservient and unctuous, his face as expressive as his voice.

Ben Bliss brought a youthfulness and intensity to the role of Tom Rakewell, as did Andrea Carroll to that of Anne Trulove with her brightness of voice, particularly in the opening aria ‘The woods are green’, while Patricia Bardon made for a more mature and somewhat subdued Baba the Turk.

All the locally filled roles also were well played, with good articulation of the English, particularly from Hernán Iturralde as Trulove and Darío Schmunck with his fine caricature of the auctioneer Sellem.

The music is essentially of a chamber style and the full orchestra led by Kakhi Solomnishvili reflected this, with lively but airy playing.

The chorus also performed well, as did the large group of extras who added context if not voice.

With an enthusiastic audience, including a good number of younger members, aided by a special entry price, the evening brought the production to a successful and memorable end.

Jonathan Spencer Jones

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