Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.
In late November, composer Igor Stravinsky had a guest at his home in the Hollywood Hills (The Times is elusive as to its exact location). His visitor was the English poet W.H. Auden and the men began discussing a musical work based on some engravings by William Hogarth—“The Rake’s Progress.”
The Times’ Albert Goldberg reported that Auden and Stravinsky plotted the outline of the opera and that Auden hoped to have the libretto completed by March 1948, so that Stravinsky could begin writing by the summer.
“The work will be a full-length opera in three acts and Stravinsky estimates that it will take two years to complete the project. The first production of the work is contemplated for London’s Covent Garden,” Goldberg wrote.
“The authors of ‘The Rake’s Progress’ hesitate to classify it as a tragic work, although following Hogarth its final scene will depict the hero’s ultimate dissolution in Bedlam, London’s once notorious insane asylum. ‘It will be tragic only in the sense that “Don Giovanni” is tragic,’ says Stravinsky.”
“Stravinsky is enthused over the prospect of writing an opera in English, a language he regards as eminently singable and easier to set to music than French. He is, in fact, an ardent advocate of opera in English….”
“The Rake’s Progress” received its world premiere in 1951 in Venice. Virgil Thomson said it was among Stravinsky’s finest works.
Quote of the day: “The only flaw in this unforgettable concert was not in the artist but in the audience, which throughout distracted the performer by barking like a pack of hungry seals.”
Albert Goldberg, describing a concert by Vladimir Horowitz at Philharmonic Auditorium.