Theatre, 1961

The Rake's Progress

Bergman's version of Stravinsky's opera ranks among his most legendary productions.
'We have rarely witnessed operatic direction of this calibre in Sweden.'
Alf Thoor, Expressen

About the production

The music to the opera The Rake's Progress was written by Igor Stravinsky, with a libretto by W H Auden and Chester Kallman. Composed between 1948-51, it was first performed at the Venice Music Festival on 11 September 1951. Ten years later, on 22 April 1961, it was premiered at the Royal Theatre (now the Royal Swedish Opera) under the direction of Ingmar Bergman, and the production was a major success. Bergman had directed musical theatre before, with his 1954 production of The Merry Widow in Malmö, but this was the first time he had tried his hand at opera.

Bergman was faithful to Stravinsky's intentions of creating an 18th-century atmosphere. The scenographer Birger Bergling based his designs on the 18th-century English artist, William Hogarth's etchings which vividly portray the hustle and bustle of life at all levels of society in George II's England. Bergling's sets created a suitable framework and backdrop for Bergman's production. The outcome, according to many critics, was brilliant.

The stage was permanently open, without curtains, and was built out into the stalls in a way reminiscent of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Scenery changes took place openly, creating 'an intimate spectacle which forces the audience to feel involved at every moment'. (Erik Pettersson, Göteborgs-Tidningen). Curt Berg described the effect as if Bergman and Bergling had created a mixture of Shakespeare's Globe and the 18th-century theatre of the Palace of Drottningholm outside Stockholm.

Sources

  • The Ingmar Bergman Archives.
  • Birgitta Steene, Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide, (Amsterdam University Press, 2005).

Collaborators