Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Fall of the Rake (or "The Rake's Lack of Progress")

This morning I looked out into my backyard and saw, as I captioned this photo on Facebook, "a bright golden haze on the mead'r."

My father inquired, in a friendly way, as to whether there was a plan to remove those beautiful leaves. A few comments down the way, I found myself channeling Auden and Stravinsky as a way of expressing how badly I fail at this kind of yard work. I wrote:
Well, whenever I've tried to tame leaves, my rake's progress has generally followed the Tom Rakewell trajectory, and it ends with me delusional and babbling incoherently in Britten-like parlando style:
I have baggèd each leaf, and so I leave work for a season to sleep in this bed.
And, lo, here my Venus hath laid leafy pillows of gold where I now rest my head.
I'm strangely proud of that couplet. I picture our failing hero standing in the middle of a scene like the one above, believing his raking is done, and seeing the leftover leaves as a gift from his estranged beloved. (I can't imagine why she'd "leave" him.)

The concept is modeled on the heartrending final scene of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, in which poor Tom has lost his mind and his love (Anne Trulove, whom he now imagines to be Venus) and descended into madness. I've been lucky enough to have two wonderful tenors who could carry this scene a couple of times in Opera Scenes productions, and both times I've found the whole extended finale deeply moving. You can hear the whole scene starting here in this playlist, but I'm particularly fond of the late Jerry Hadley's interpretation.

And with that, I take my leave...

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