The Rake's Progress by Igor Stravinsky

conductor Eivind Gullberg Jensen — stage director Simon McBurney

Recording Date
11 July 2017
Performance in English subtitled in French
Distribution area
video available all over Europe
Video available for replay until

The Rake’s Progress
La Carrière du Libertin
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
Opera in three acts
Libretto by Wystan Hugh Auden and Chester Simon Kallman adapted from William Hogarth
First performed on 11 September 1951 at La Fenice, Venice

After settling in the United States after World War II, Igor Stravinsky discovered the series of paintings known as A Rake’s Progress by the English painter, William Hogarth. The paintings retrace the dissolute life of a libertine in eighteenth century England in powerfully realistic, satirical detail. Stravinsky decided to turn it into an opera. The libretto by Auden and Kallman embellishes the story narrated by Hogarth by adding the Mephistophelian figure of Nick Shadow, the damned soul of the reprobate Tom Rakewell. Following a journey that takes him from the brothel to the auction house, the libertine finally ends up in the madhouse. Stravinsky adopts the codes of eighteenth-century opera to score this enlightenment-era narrative. But the musical language, while evoking the memory of Mozart, also tips a nod to Rossini, Verdi and Handel, whose aesthetic he “unfolds” in a musical cubism that has lost none of its acerbity. The major contemporary playwright Simon McBurney repaints this “rake's progress”, while Eivind Gullberg Jensen strips back the multiple layers that Stravinsky has stacked up in his score, somewhere between amused distance and genuine emotion.