Opera and Theatre: The Rake's Progress and Dalston Songs



This week saw two trips to the Royal Opera to catch the final performances of The Rake's Progress, an opera by Stravinsky and directed by Robert Lepage and Dalston Songs, a song cycle written by Helen Chadwick.

Stravinsky's Rake is inspired by the paintings by Hogarth, although the action here takes place on the west coast of America during the 1950s. It is a pity that it didn't take its modernisation a bit closer to the present day as then the tale of green might have had a bit more bite... As an opera it does tend to drag a bit (all that neoclassical window dressing), but what it lacks in focus and brevity it sure made up with the performances and the stunning production design. The moral of the story summed up very nicely in the epilogue was that the devil makes work for idle hands... Obviously for idle operas it doesn't matter so much when they look this good...

Saturday night's performance of Dalston Songs was a different affair. There were no fancy set pieces or flashy projections. Instead the set looked like either a community hall or a internet / phone cafe. I was glad I was sitting close to the action as from the upper levels of the Linbury Theatre it looked like it was half built. Eight performers in everyday dress sang a cappella and danced about the life and musings about home from the people who live in Dalston, a north east part of London. The songs were interrupted with recordings of people from Dalston talking about their life. The recordings seemed unnecessary as the music and the performances had a life of their own. It will be interesting to see where this show goes next as it deserves further outings...

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