The Rake’s Progress at the Berlin Staatsoper

The performance of The Rake’s Progress by the Berlin Staatsoper at the Schiller Theater was musically one of the best I can recall. Domingo Hindoyan in the pit emphasised the lyrical and dramatic dimensions of the score rather than the neo-classical, thus adding emotion and energy to the moral tale. Anna Prohaska, with her pure silvery soprano, had exactly the right voice for Anne, Stephan Rügamer as Tom moved easily between nonchalance, passion and pathos, and the powerful sardonic bass Gidon Saks dominated proceedings whenever necessary. Each of these cut convincing figures on the stage. The production was a revival of that mounted by the Polish team of Krzysztof Warlikowksi and Malgorzata Szczesniak in 2010. I had positive rather than negative reactions to the chosen modern “alternative” setting forthe dissolute and disengaged society and though the idea of narrating the life of the Rake as a theatrical event did not add much to the piece, I had no problems with it. But I was much irritated by the conviction that it was necessary to implement the latter concept by having a video camera constantly moving around the stage taking key images and projecting them onto a screen at the back. At best a distraction, this meant that there was far too much for the eye to take in and it did not well complement the clarity and elegance of Stravinsky’s music.