Stravinsky’s neoclassical extravaganza, The Rake’s Progress, plays on the tension between artificiality and sincerity. This elegant and lively inaugural production by OperaGlass Works, a new company founded by Selina Cadell and Eliza Thompson, evinces this, often wittily, without tipping into archness.
In the demanding central role of Tom, Robert Murray proves an eminently likeable anti-hero, his deft dramatic touch complemented by glowing vocal lyricism.
Like all the male singers he wears 18th century costume with modern black trousers. The women are in full period gear, and one fears for Susanna Hurrell’s safety as she climbs down a ladder from Wilton’s public balcony to the stepped wooden stage. Fortunately, her singing as Anne is as secure as her footwork; especially attractive in the lower registers. She acts with subtlety and candour.
As the Mephistophelian Nick Shadow, Jonathan Lemalu – both genial and threatening – is enormously, fruitily resonant, while Victoria Simmonds’ glamorous, live wire Baba the Turk is alluring of voice.
Stephen Richardson makes a powerful Trulove and Keeper of the House, Harry Nicoll camps it up pointedly as Sellem and Penelope Cousland brings a gleam to Mother Goose. The eight, fizzingly alert young singers of the chorus sing superbly.
Occupying the rear of the stage – and sometimes engaged in the action – are the Southbank Sinfonia and conductor-harpsichordist Laurence Cummings, a Handel expert splendidly costumed as George Frideric himself. The warm Wilton’s acoustic takes some Stravinskian edge off the instrumental sound, but it shows off the singers – and their words – to ideal effect.