What a truly gorgeous way to spend an evening. Concerts like this remind us how lucky we are in Edinburgh to attract wonderful performers and unusual pieces of music. Stravinsky’s work is seldom played so we jump at the chance to attend concerts featuring any of his works. To have a whole evening of Stravinsky at the peak of his Neo-classical style is a dream! As with most of Stravinsky’s works, The Rake’s Progress has it’s own history of scandal and intrigue. The fantastical libretto was inspired by William Hogarth’s paintings series, ‘The Rake’s Progress’ and was written by WH Auden. This work traces the rise and demise of Tom Rakewell (Andrew Staples) as he finds love, lust and bewilderment, mainly at the hands of Nick Shadow, the satanic character of this work. All members of the cast were finely tuned and acted superbly. This was no mean feat, as the orchestra and chorus shared the stage with their minimal set.
Their vocals soared through the Usher Hall with ease and the libretto was easily followed due to clear, precise diction (as well as subtitles). It is a rare and beautiful thing to watch an opera written in English and executed with conviction. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Davis, were a supportive accompaniment at times, and a spotlighted star of the show during orchestral interludes. The chorus, the Royal Conservatoire Voices, embraced their part in this opera with vitality and vigour.
Stand out moments included the heavenly performance of ‘No Word from Tom’ by Emily Birsan as Anne Trulove. Birsan’s performance throughout was flawless, with soaring coloratura and deep emotional connection; she took my breath away and gave me shivers on many occasions (Ali). Gidon Saks as Nick Shadow was a powerful presence and filled the hall with rich bass tones while presenting a flawless representation of the power and seduction of evil. The penultimate scene is set in a cemetery and featured a flawless virtuosic harpsichord duel with Rakewell and Shadow. This was a wonderful example of `Stravinsky’s marrying of Baroque recitative and 20th Century discordance. A personal favourite moment involved the most impressive musical feat – singing and acting wonderfully whilst eating biscuits! This is not easy… I have tried!
This opera culminates with all characters enlightening the audience as the moral of their stories… the devil finds work for idle hands… The moral of this review is, take advantage of the world class music and musicians we are lucky to have all in one city for the glorious Edinburgh International Festival! FIVE STARS
Reviewers : Ali Bell & Dr. Denise Borland
Are Singing, Voice & Performance teachers at the Noble Institute, Edinburgh