Despite a happy engagement to his beloved Anne Trulove, Tom Rakewell follows the enticing call of Nick Shadow, an enigmatic man who promises an easily earned fortune in the big city. After arriving, Tom is rapidly lost to the seemingly endless permutations of money and sex, even allowing himself to be married to the whore Baba – after all, »is anyone really respectable, good and pure?« Tom Rakewell realizes too late that he’s fallen into the hands of the devil and that Nick Shadow is playing a deadly game of life and death, love and madness!
For his opera The Rakes Progress, premiered in 1951, Igor Stravinsky referenced his role models Mozart, Verdi and Handel, honoring them in his musical language without losing his unique signature. Stravinsky alternates arias and ensemble numbers with recitatives, placing the music entirely in the service of the singers. The Rakes Progress is the abyssal character study of naïve Tom Rakewell who succumbs to Nick Shadow’s temptations, falling into a phantasmagoric world of lust and black magic, for which he will pay dearly in the end.