Raehann Bryce-Davis as Baba the Turk and Ben Bliss as Tom Rakewell in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress

Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Friday, June 3, 2022
Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York City

Guest Reviewer, Susan Stempleski

The late Jonathan Miller’s 1997 production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, last seen at the Met in 2015, is back. With Susanna Mälkki conducting an outstanding cast, it is as bright and charming as ever.

The libretto, a Faustian tale by W. H. Auden & Chester Kallman, is based on the 1735 series of engravings by William Hogarth and tells the story of a gullible young man who dumps his bride to be to pursue the get-rich-quick schemes proposed by a malevolent stranger, who leads him to a life of debauchery before revealing himself to be the Devil. The jaunty neoclassical score uses eighteenth-century musical forms and methods as points of departure, fusing them with the rhythms and harmonies of the mid-twentieth-century.

With his slim and agile physique, bursting with restless energy, and his lithe, radiant voice, Ben Bliss is perfectly cast as Tom Rakewell, his feckless adventures leading him from innocence to insanity. He delivers a highly engaging performance as he unveils the many layers of disappointment and remorse at the heart of the character. His passionate and polished singing in the Bedlam scene is the vocal and dramatic highpoint.

Christian Van Horn is handsome, suave, and assured in the bravura role of Nick Shadow, the demonic figure who tempts Tom away from the straight and narrow. With his dark and consistently smooth bass-baritone, he is a particularly potent presence. Golda Schulz is wonderfully expressive as Anne Trulove, Tom’s jilted fiancée who tries to save him from the degenerate path he is pursuing. Her skillful, sweet-toned soprano is at its best in her Act II aria, ‘No Word from Tom’, in which she decides that her love for him is too overpowering to ignore.

Raehann-Bryce Davis is hilarious in the scene-stealing role of Baba the Turk, the bearded lady who becomes Tom’s wife. She shows off her deep and polished mezzo most effectively in her showcase aria, ‘Scorned, Abused! Neglected!’.

There are strong and stylish turns from James Creswell as Anne’s father, Truelove; Eve Gigliotti as Mother Goose, the keeper of a London brothel who introduces Tom to vice and licentiousness; and Tony Stevenson as the outrageously weird auctioneer who sells off Tom’s possessions after he has become bankrupt. The Met Chorus is impressive throughout but especially moving in the poignant asylum scene in which Anne and the now-insane Tom are reunited.

With her clear and detailed gestures, Mälkki draws a spirted and sparkling readingfrom the orchestra – glowing in the more tender passages, such as the heartrending final scene, and eliciting surprisingly big sounds from the smaller-than-usual ensemble in the more dramatically biting moments.

Miller’s production looks remarkably fresh after twenty-five years. Judy Levin’s elegant costumes and Peter J. Davison’s stylistic and starkly beautiful sets, which update the action to the 1920s, remain enormously effective in establishing the ironic and caustic mood of Auden & Kallman’s brilliant libretto and Stravinsky’s nimbly-crafted/sophisticated score.


The June 11 performance will be broadcast live beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern Time via the Toll Brothers–Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network

Also live on BBC Radio 3 at 6.30 p.m.



The Rake’s Progress – Opera in three Acts to a libretto by W. H. Auden & Chester Kallman [sung in English with Met Titles in English, German & Spanish]

Tom Rakewell – Ben Bliss
Ann Trulove – Golda Schultz
Nick Shadow – Christian Van Horn
Baba the Turk – Raehann Bryce-Davis

Trulove – James Creswell
Mother Goose – Eve Gigliotti

Sellem – Tony Stevenson
Keeper of the Madhouse – Paul Corona

The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

The Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera
Susanna Mälkki

Jonathan Miller – Production
Peter J. Davison – Set Design
Judy Levin – Costume Design
Jennifer Tipton – Lighting Design

J. Knighten Smith – Revival Stage Director

Susanna Mälkki & Helsinki Philharmonic record Bartók – MSPC & Concerto for Orchestra – for BIS.