Let me tell you that listening to French lessons while driving to the opera might have been the classiest things I’ve ever done.
Today my friend, Courtney, and I went to see the opera, A Rake’s Progress by Igor Stravinsky.
If I could do things over again, I would major in Art History since that was what I really enjoyed studying in college, but I was given the terrible advice to major in English. “It’s so broad! You’ll be able to get a job in anything!” the academic advisor gushed. Not saying that Art History would have been a largely accepted and lucrative major either, but at least it would have been something I actually cared about. ANYWAY, I did study A LOT of art history nonetheless, and one of my favorite artists became Hogarth.
In particular, the engravings of A Rake’s Progress and A Harlot’s Progress were interesting to me because I like anything that portrays the downfall of man (or woman…but mostly man). Although the details of the story were fuzzy to me, I knew that the basis was that Tom Rakewell would inherit a large sum of money, squander it on parties and prostitutes, and finish it all out bankrupt in an insane asylum.
So let’s talk about what I didn’t like first:
Stravinsky must have taken a lot of artistic license to mix up the story, and instead turned it into a love story gone wrong. That kind of bummed me out. I’m always that person that says things like, “That’s not what was in the book!” Tom starts out singing sweet love songs to Anne, and promises to earn enough money to marry her. He soon inherits his uncle’s fortune, and is whisked off to London to get things “settled.” He does spend a sordid night with a prostitute, but in the opera he seems guilt or reluctant – and in the original artwork I got the impression that he was reveling in the excessive lifestyle.
Later, Tom also ends up marrying a bearded Turkish woman, Baba, and some part of me felt like it was ethnically offensive, although I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why (maybe because his true love was a buxom blonde, blue-eyed beauty?).
Tom’s final scenes in the mental hospital were also not near destitute enough for me. In the original engravings, he is physically and mentally tormented – a shell of himself – and surrounded by crazies. In Stravinsky’s version, Anne sings a sad and loving goodbye, and he is left to die alone. The end.
What did I like?
The costumes, the artwork, and the sets. I was mentally noting my Halloween costume the entire time.
Overall, we had a good time, and it was entertaining – I’ll just have to do my homework on how Stravinsky came up with his own, tamer version of the downfall of the rake. (And where to find a costume like that!)