Stravinsky was no slave to convention, not even his own.He had the happy facility of finding just the right idiom of each task he attempted, and he changed his idioms as quickly and as easily as an actor changes costumes.
For his opera "The Rake's Progress," which he wrote in collaboration with poet-librettist W. H. Auden after viewing Hogarth's paintings of the same name, he adapted an amalgamation of Mozartian, Purcellian, Machaultean and a clutch of other conventions. These all cohabit comfortably within an unmistakable Stravinsky context of dry wit and pointed rhythmic drive.
Catholic University's School of Music has taken on this difficult and somewhat enigmatic work and has solved some of its problems successfully.
In the first of three performances at Ward Theater last night, the Rake proved to be an engaging, if self-centered tool of the devil. The cast was strong, with G. Stephen Stokes as an attractive and well coached Tom Rakewell; Ellwood Annaheim, a nasty devil of a Nick Shadow; Joan Morton, a shrewish and bearded Baba; and a generally well-balanced cast of minor characters. Barbara Lewis, whose love-of love-wins-over-all Anne Truelove, was unfortunately unable to project her words at all.
A simple set, well lit, and a well-trained orchestra and chorus gave well intergrated support.
This performance focused on the humorous aspects of the opera and wisely left all the possible philosphical considerations alone. This lift the epilogue and some parts of individual scenes out in left field with little significance, but it was a good tradeoff.
The real trouble with this production is a lack of flow. Stravinsky was a ballet composer first and foremost, and the music cries out for a balletic style of movement which clearly was never attempted here.
Musically, conductor Robert Ricks led a performance that was well paced and nicely balanced.