Hogarth’s Progress


A Harlot's Progress, scene 1, by William Hogarth, 1731

A Harlot’s Progress, scene 1, by William Hogarth, 1731

At tomorrow’s installment of the New York Comics & Picture-Story Symposium, Abigail Zitin of Rutgers will talk about William Hogarth in a presentation titled “Narrative Art and Visual Pleasure”.  Hogarth’s narrative painting cycles mark him as a proto-cartoonist, with two popular sets of 6 paintings each popularized through more affordable print cycles in their days.  The original, A Harlot’s Progress cycle from 1731, was followed up in 1733 by The Rake’s Progress cycle. (The original paintings of the latter are at the Soane Museum in London; the Harlot paintings were lost to a fire and only survive in the print format.)

After seeing the original pieces in an exhibit in Chicago, composer Igor Stravinsky adapted the story into 1951’s Rake’s Progress opera a neo-classical satire and a modern classic.  The 1975 Glyndebourne Opera production by English artist David Hockney is a classic in its own right too…  As a demonstration of how intrinsically linked this production has become to the opera, this video from Glyndebourne is as much about the production’s creation by Hockney and director John Cox as it is about the music and opera itself:

More recently, the earlier The Harlot’s Progress was adapted into an opera in six scenes (mirroring the original cycle of six paintings) by 34-year old English composer Iain Bell, premiering just last year at Theater an der Wien in Vienna with German soprano Diana Damrau creating the title role.  Unlike Stravinsky’s more comical take, Bell apparently had an unremittingly bleak vision for his Hogarth opera, but it seems to have been pretty well received

Is it any wonder an artist who pioneered narrative paintings would be an inspiration to modern composers?  Only a shame Hogarth didn’t create more cycles to be adapted!

Britten to Zandonai

This Sunday and Monday you can treat yourself to a double feature of operas from the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the Glyndebourne opera festival in England.

Francesca da Rimini at The Met, 2013

Copyright Metropolitan Opera, Photo by Marty Sohl

First up, Sunday at noon in New York, PBS is airing the Metropolitan Opera‘s performance of Riccardo Zandonai‘s Francesca da Rimini (check your local listings).  The Met gave the opera’s American premiere in 1916, but it’s gotten pretty intermittent revivals since then; this performance is a revival of a 1984 production.

Then on Monday, via the internet, you can see Glyndebourne‘s 2010  production of Benjamin Britten‘s Billy Budd (lots of B–alliteration), fitting for his centennial year.  They just say that the webcast will be at “lunchtime”…  Greenwich Mean Time, I presume…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSVW47iCv70&w=350&h=300]

Luckily, all the webcasts of this summer’s Glyndebourne performances are still available online, so you can catch up with some Rameau, Strauss, or Donizetti after you’re done with Monday’s Britten.

Refrigerated Rameau

Glyndebourne's Hippolyte et Aricie

The Glyndebourne summer opera festival in England will be live-streaming their first ever production of a Rameau opera, his 1733 debut opera, Hippolyte et Aricie, tomorrow from their website at 1:15 PM, East Coast time.

This was Rameau‘s first opera, written when he was 50, and it set off a great divide between more traditional operatic followers of Lully, who established the conventions of French opera, and the “Ramoneurs” who appreciated Rameau‘s inventive and chock-block full-o’-hits creation.

As you can see, the Glyndebourne production is for some reason set in a refrigerator…  But at any rate, you should get a nice musical performance to complement the wacky stage direction, since Buffalo-born master of the French Baroque William Christie is conducting.

Falstaff it’s All About!

Come for the questionable puns, stay for the free opera…

Tomorrow morning, Glyndebourne will be streaming an opera from the vaults, the 2009 production of Verdi‘s final opera, Falstaff.  From this page click “Watch Online” for the video and more details (including the actual time).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofQk3QOOEYI&w=350&h=300]

Sendak at the Society, and at the Opera

Poster for Maurice Sendak exhibit at the Society of Illustrators

Maurice Sendak exhibit at the Society of Illustrators Copyright the Estate of Maurice Sendak

Tomorrow night at 7pm is the opening for an exhibit on Maurice Sendak at the Society of Illustrators.  You may have seen the Google Doodle for his 85th birthday a few days ago, though the animation didn’t work on my computer…

As I’ve mentioned beforeSendak also designed for opera pretty extensively, including five operas for the Glyndebourne summer opera fest in England.  Glyndebourne’s Archive has a page devoted to Oliver Knussen‘s operatic adaptation of Sendak‘s Where the Wild Things Are, the final version of which they premiered in 1984.  But for today, here’s the 1987 Sendak-designed production of Maurice Ravel‘s (first name twins!) one-act L’Heure Espagnole:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JI7gr4mGhQU&NR&w=350&h=300]

For hours of fun, check out Glyndebourne‘s performance database.

Live-Streamin’ some Strauss

Whoops, forgot to post about this earlier, but today you can watch Richard StraussAriadne auf Naxos online, the first live-stream of the 2013 Glyndebourne season at 1:55 east coast time.  I’ll be more on top of subsequent webcasts from Glyndebourne (also, this is my first Strauss post?  yikes!).

Ariadne auf Naxos at Glyndebourne, 2013

Ariadne auf Naxos at Glyndebourne, 2013

If you’re aching for more, and more modern opera, after that, you can catch up with all the 2013 InsightALT festival events here.