Review: Boston Lyric Opera Rake’s Progress

Four of us went to see Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress at the Boston Lyric Opera (through March 19). It is a great production, though the work isn’t geared for today’s short attention spans. As an engineer I was hoping to see a rake overcoming feelings of inadequacy as leaf blowers were introduced and then improved. However, the story is actually adapted from the Hogarth drawings.

There is so much great action in the Hogarth drawings, but little of it is portrayed in the opera (Stravinsky’s fault, not the BLO’s). Tom Rakewell sings about how respectable women are lining up to try to marry him for the cash (out-of-wedlock child-bearing for profit was impractical in those days), but we never see him spending time with any of these prospectives, only full-time professional prostitutes. Hogarth shows a packed gambling den, but it is missing from the opera.

The BLO does great work with the material and the orchestra is equal to the challenge of Stravinsky’s music.

The balcony is pretty high above the stage, so try to get tickets in the orchestra or maybe mezzanine.

A sign out front (picture below) indicates that “Gender diversity is respected… We see you. We stand with you. You are welcome here.” An unlikely-to-be-relevant message for a nearly-all-white Boston opera audience, median age halfway between 75 and dead? Au contraire! The opera features a marriage between a cisgender man and a “bearded lady” (the librettists did not have access to the current LGBTQIA glossary).

Tips for gourmets: they sell Twizzlers at the show (see below) and The Little Kitchen (Chinese food) is just a few short blocks away.