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Reviews of The Rake's Progress

 

 

‘Director David McVicar’s confessed long-held ambition to stage Stravinsky’s Rake…is evident in every beautifully-conceived moment of this triumphant production. Just as importantly however, Scottish Opera has provided him with a cast, conductor, and creative team that is absolutely top-notch. Utterly faithful to the 18th century setting in its glorious costuming and elements of John Macfarlane’s brilliantly clever designs, it is as modern as it is timeless. Tom Rakewell (Edgaras Montvidas) and Nick Shadow (Steven Page)…give swaggering performances, with Montvidas in particular on glorious vocal form and alive to every detail of Andrew Geroge’s choreography, which animates the excellent chorus every time they appear. But they are matched by the women, Leah-Marian Jones revelling in the bearded lady, Baba the Turk, and Carolyn Sampson all but stopping the show with her garden aria at the end of Act 1…Conductor Sian Edwards’ approach to the score is a perfect match, and The Orchestra of Scottish Opera has rarely sounded better, with principals trumpeter Tom Poulson and cellist Rudi de Groote among those on star form.’

***** The Herald

 

 

 

‘Director David McVicar and designer John Macfarlane use period setting(18th century London) and period theatre techniques to create a brash, bawdy and brilliantly lavish look, but behind the raunch and the outlandish hairdos it’s a classic treatment – which few modern productions are willing to give this opera. Much credit is due to Macfarlane, whose vast painted backdrops, pop-up London streets scenes and charming quirky details…are masterful. The costumes are fine, too: Anne Trulove (Carolyn Sampson) in radiant white, Tom Rakewell (Edgaras Montvidas) quickly morphing from wholesome to sleaze…Musically this production is one of the company’s best for a long while…Sian Edwards draws percussive and vigorous dynamism. Vocal performances are strong, the three leads perfectly matched in light ebullient timbre and clear diction.’

The Sunday Herald

 

 

 

‘So often you leave The Rake’s Progress feeling more sympathy for the Devil than Tom. IT’s true that McVicar downplays the impact of nasty Nick Shadow…In doing so, however, he restores a sense of ambiguity to Tom’s rollercoaster ride: in a society of grotesques, cavorting to Andrew George’s choreography, who’s to know what’s real and what’s fantasy?...The other great news in this show is the clarity and verve of the orchestral playing under Siân Edwards’s baton…this is a warm, attentive reading that complements a staging that breathes the same sort of air…[Edgaras Montvidas] throws himself into the show with heart and soul whether he is caddish or remorseful, or even being stripped to his breeches to be served up to the monstrously buxom Mother Goose (the mezzo Karen Murray, in cackling Glaswegian). Carolyn Sampson…sings sweetly, while an unexpectedly sympathetic Leah-Marian Jones comes perilously close to making Baba the Turk, aka the Bearded Lady, genuine marriage material.’

**** The Times

 

 

 

‘[Edgaras] Montvidas and [Steven} Page are outstanding. Page is all dangerous allure and insidious charm, Montvidas dark-voiced and vulnerable: those moments when Stravinsky allows his emotions to penetrate the artifice are simply overwhelming.’

**** The Guardian

 

 

 

‘Stravinsky’s neoclassical scores tend to sound as if the reactionary tiger in him has been served with a restraining order. Their full impact comes from the forcible suppression of emotion within an outer shell of refinement and understatement, underpinned by a fragile, often shrill, irony. So when it comes to staging a neoclassical opera like The Rake’s Progress, acknowledgement of that is paramount. David McVicar does exactly that in his crafty new production for Scottish Opera…this is an even, well-integrated cast, ranging from Carolyn Sampson’s silken white Anne (hitting sublime heights in the gorgeous Lullaby), Edgaras Montvidas’s smoothly transformable Tom, and Steven Page’s sneakily macabre Nick Shadow, to Graeme Broadbent’s reliable Trulove, Leah-Marian Jones’s endearingly grotesque Baba and Colin Judson’s high-octane cameo as the auctioneer Sellum. [Sian}Edwards draws all that is lean and tender from the sparingly intense orchestral score…Scottish Opera has a mightily enjoyable winner on its hands.’

**** The Scotsman

 

 

‘Scottish Opera’s chorus has a whale of a time as the Roaring Boys and Whores of Mother Goose’s brothel, and the ghoulish gossips enjoying Tom Rakewell’s post-bankruptcy auction. Choreographer Andrew George’s routines possess the crisp physicality of a good West-End musical. Macfarlane, too, excels in a brilliantly accomplished sequence of stage pictures, overlooked or interrupted by the memento mori image of a skull. Add in Sian Edwards’ vital conducting, and you have a show that hits home with consistent punch. Solid casting, too, ensures that Stravinsky’s neo-classical masterpiece is delivered at an international vocal level. In the title role, Lithuanian tenor Edgaras Montvidas...offers breadth and impact. Carolyn Sampson’s Anne Trulove…reveals strength in her tenderness. Steven Page finds the perfect combination of the amiable and the sinister for the devilish Nick Shadow, and is on menacing form in the graveyard scene. Leah-Marian Jones’ warm-hearted Baba, Karen Murray’s spicily exotic Mother Goose and Colin Judson’s clipped Sellem all stand out, but it’s the overall impression of a company on fine form that keeps this Rake up in the air. ‘

The Stage

 

 

‘Vocally the Tom Rakewell of Lithuanian Edgaras Montvidas had much to offer, his sappy tenor catching nicely the character’s initial ebullience and optimism. A fast vibrato and fruity tone heightened the impress of an endearingly perky fellow genuinely keen to make his mark on society. But Montvidas was excellent also at suggesting Tom’s naivety and lack of worldly experience…Carolyn Sampson’s Anne is another piece of carefully calibrated, intelligent actiong…Sampson’s singing is also strongly impressive, creamy, cleanly focused, and with a bright allure at the top of her register…As Shadow, Steven Page sang with splendid consistency and firm enunciation. [Director David] McVicar’s Shadow is very much Tom’s alter-ego…Overall this was a notably successful evening. McVicar’s Rake…is a well-sung, visually stylish, and theatrically probing piece of work...in McVicar’s new staging, The Rake seems more than ever a work of sharp contemporary relevance, a parable of greed gone bad, and lives ruined in the process. Love is also trashed comprehensively: that we feel its loss so potently is a testament to McVicar’s directorial sensitivity, and to the ednduringly humane, compassionate qualities of Stavinsky’s wonderful music.’
Opera Britannia ****

 

 

‘Carolyn Sampson, the rake’s abandoned fiancée, shines the most at the end of Act I, when she laments her lot alone in front of a painted backdrop. With no distractions, her anguish is audible. Leah-Marian Jones, on the other hand, knows how to work a beard. Her Baba the Turk, a larger-than-life celebrity in a sedan chair, can only be silenced with a blanket thrown over her head…Steven Page’s Nick [Shadow] is a pleasingly understated baddie.'
The Independent ***

 

 

‘…[Designer] John Macfarlane, has created a seedily elegant London, with a hint of toy theatre and inventive period costume…Rakewell (Edgaras Montvidas) looks unnervingly like a young twin of his devilish tormentor Nick Shadow (a bristling, arch Steven Page), with the same high forehead, sharp cheekbones and penetrating eyes. Both the Lithuanian tenor and the British baritone gave incisive performances which could hardly be bettered. Carolyn Sampson was a sweet and tender Anne Trulove…This is a pacy and unpreachy show, expertly delivered by all.’
The Observer

 

 

‘[Director David] McVicar and his designer, John Macfarlane, play merrily with the artifice and spectacle of the rise and fall of Tom Rakewell…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 Sian Edwards’ meticulous conducting and the orchestra’s subtle shadings…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 elan, such opulence and intensity, is revelatory.’
The Independent on Sunday

 

 

‘[Director David] McVicar looks beyond the artifice and excavates some common humanity and emotional realism of the parable. The characters aren’t two-dimensional cut-outs; they have flesh and blood, and their pain really hurts. Pace is another of the production’s virtues; one short interval and swift scene changes…compensate for the score’s occasional longueurs and give it a crisp edge, which the light touch of Sian Edwards’ spry conducting and the orchestra’s airy playing did much to sharpen…[Carolyn Sampson’s] place as Anne Trulove was bravely taken by Elin Pritchard…Sweet-toned and poised if understandably a tad cautious in her big aria, she did an admirable job, presenting the character without simpering affectation or special pleading. Her Tom Rakewell was the personable Lithuanian tenor Edgaras Montvidas…he projected clearly and shaped “Love, too frequently betrayed” with lovely sensitivity…The programme reminds us that The Rake’s Progress hasn’t been heard north of the border for 40 years: its return is welcome, and Scottish Opera has done it proud.’
The Daily Telegraph ****