The Rake’s Progress - Synopsis
The Rake’s Progress
Wystan Hugh Auden and Chester Kallman
Scene One: The English countryside. It is Spring - the Festival of May. Tom Rakewell is with his sweetheart Anne Trulove. Father Trulove keeps a watchful eye over them. Tom is under considerable pressure from Anne's Father to settle down and get a proper job. At Tom's words, "I wish I had money", a stranger mysteriously appears, calling himself "Nick Shadow", bearing the extraordinary news that Tom has just inherited a fortune. Tom employs Shadow as his manservant and they leave for London to claim his inheritance.
Scene Two: London. Mother Goose's Sex Club. Tom has to pass certain tests to become a member. Amongst the amorality and lasciviousness, Tom holds fast to his love for Anne - until things really hot up and he gives into Mother Goose's advances.
Scene Three: It is Autumn - Anne is alone with no news from Tom. She decides she must go and look for him. She sets out for London.
Scene One: Tom is already depressed with London life. At Tom's words, "I wish I were happy", Shadow arrives with a picture of a circus freak - "Baba the Turk, the Bearded Lady". He suggests that Tom marry her. Tom is at first disgusted by this outrageous idea but is eventually enthusiastic.
Scene Two: Anne arrives in London just as Tom's new wife is moving into his house. Tom is shocked to see Anne and tries to send her back to the country. Baba's arrival draws a crowd demanding a free showing of her celebrated beard. She obliges.
Scene Three: Baba is totally taking over Tom's room, moving all her treasures in. Tom realises he has made a terrible mistake and his refusal to talk to her makes her fly into a rage. He shuts her up. Tom falls asleep and dreams he has invented an amazing machine that will benefit all mankind by turning stones into bread. On waking, he wishes it were true - only to find Shadow there with an identical machine. Tom is inspired to spend the last part of his inheritance manufacturing these machines.
Scene One: Ruin! Disaster! Shame! Tom's plan has been a flop and he is penniless. The London Crowd flood into Tom's room, looking for bargains at the auction of Tom's goods. The auctioneer, Sellem, presides. Anne hasn't given up hope and is still looking for Tom. Baba is discovered. She supports Anne in her quest for Tom, by making the decision to walk out of the marriage and go back to Show Business.
Scene Two: It is Winter. Tom's Shadow presents suicide as the only way out of his desperate situation. Tom hesitates. Shadow & Tom gamble to see whether Tom's soul will live in this world or the next. Tom wins by clinging on to the memory of Anne. Shadow dissolves, cursing Tom with madness for the rest of his days. It is Spring. Tom is mad.
Scene Three: Tom is imprisoned in the world of hallucination. He imagines himself to be Adonis and is waiting for his Venus. Anne arrives with her Father. She comforts him and sings him a lullaby. He drifts into oblivion.
Epilogue: The singers who played Tom, Shadow, Anne, Baba and Father Trulove, come forward to deliver the moral of the piece: the Devil finds work for idle hands.
Martin Duncan / Ultz / Jonathan Lunn
© Bayerische Staatsoper