The Rakes Progress
Commissioned by Staatsoper Hannover, Germany

Music by Stravinsky; libretto by WH Auden

Director / Co-set / Filmmaker: Tim Hopkins
Co-set / Filmmaker: Pippa Nissen
Costume Designer: Tania Spooner
Lighting Designer: Herman Münzer
Choreographer: Kate Brown
Musical Director: Jürg Henneberger
Venue: Hannover Opera House
First Performed: 2002

The set is a replica cross section through a suburban house from 1950’s Britain. The house becomes a metaphor for the mind; being trapped inside someone’s head, and inside the home.

Instead of the scenes described by Hogarth’s original story, the scenes get played out within the house.

The set has many tricks that allow this intensity of the psychological reading of the score. For example all the walls have secret passages within them so that characters come in and out of walls , sometimes as other people - or as their doubles - dressed exactly the same. Similarly the house exists through many media and forms, folding into the house again and again. The wallpaper is made up of photographic images screen printed onto painted surfaces. A 1:10 model takes up one of the rooms in the attic.

Film itself becomes a central way that the story of the opera is told, a way of describing the tension in the relationship between Auden and Stravinsky, as well as looking at itself and its lyric power. Films are projected both onto a cloth - a traditional film screen - and onto the house itself, acting as the lighting of the room. Through the windows at the back of the house are two screens.

Film starts off as a documentary of Stravinsky’s life, and gradually throughout the opera exposes the fragility of the character and the means of expression. For example the real curtain of the theatre is filmed and projected life size onto a screen as it is flown up to reveal the house. This form of re-presentation is most explicit at the end when Tom reviews his ‘life’ - or his experience within the confines of the opera itself - as it is re-played to the audience speeded up and decreasing in size to infinity, mirroring his death.