The story concerns the decline and fall of one Tom Rakewell, who deserts Anne Trulove for the delights of London in the company of Nick Shadow, who turns out to be the Devil. After several misadventures, all initiated by the devious Shadow, Tom ends up in Bedlam, a hospital for the insane at that time situated in the City of London. The moral of the tale is: "For idle hearts and hands and minds the Devil finds work to do."

Tom, a happy go lucky young man, is in love with a young girl, Anne, but Anne’s father, Truelove, has doubts about Tom’s character. Truelove urges Tom to find a “real” job, but Tom is resistant and would rather rely on luck than work to make money. When Tom makes a wish that he had money, a mysterious man, Nick Shadow, appears and tells Tom that an unknown uncle has left him a substantial fortune. Tom is very excited by his luck and heads of to London with Shadow to collect his fortune.

London holds many trials and temptations for Tom and he quickly assumes the lifestyle of a rake. He finds himself in brothels, gambling, and even marries Baba the Turk, a bearded show woman. He seems to have lost his way and forgotten Anne, but Anne braves the city to find Tom and try and help him turn his life back around.


Opera in 3 acts
Sung in English
About 2 hours 25 min + intervals

St Petersburg and the surrounding countryside in the 1820s.

Act 1

Tom Rakewell is courting Anne Trulove outside her father's house in the country. Trulove has doubts about his daughter's proposed marriage and tries to arrange a regular job for Tom; but Tom resists the idea and, left on his own, declares his intention to "live by my wits and trust to my luck." When Tom expresses his wish for money, Nick Shadow appears and tells him that an unknown uncle has left him a substantial fortune. He then invites Tom to employ him as a servant and accompany Tom to London to sort out the inheritance. The second scene, set in Mother Goose's brothel, shows Shadow introducing his new master to the sleazy aspects of London life. But Tom is uneasy and laments his betrayal of love, yet accepts Mother Goose's invitation to spend the night with her. Meanwhile, back in the country, Anne wonders why she has not heard from Tom. She knows somehow that he is in danger, and sets out for London to aid him.

Act 2

Tom is bored with his dissolute life. He utters his second crucial wish, for happiness, whereupon Nick makes the odd suggestion that he demonstrate his freedom by marrying Baba the Turk, the famous bearded lady. Soon afterwards Anne finds Tom's London house, only to see him emerge from a sedan chair which also contains Baba, whom he has just married. Tom tells Anne to leave, yet genuinely regrets what has happened. In the next scene Tom is clearly finding his eccentric marriage intolerable, as Baba is a chatterbox with a fiery temper. He silences her by throwing his wig over her face, then falls asleep. Nick enters with a "fantastic Baroque Machine" and demonstrates how, through the use of a hidden compartment in the machine, it appears to turn stones into bread. Tom cries out in his sleep that he wishes it were true, and waking, finds the machine he has dreamt of. Nick hints that if such machines were mass-produced Tom could become a saviour of mankind and Tom sets out to market the machine, not knowing it is a sham.

Act 3

The plan has failed – the act starts with the auction of the ruined Tom's property by the maniac auctioneer Sellem. The objects for sale include Baba, who has remained immobile since being silenced by the wig. When unwrapped, she resumes her tantrum, now directed at the auction-goers for disturbing her belongings, but calms down when Anne enters. Baba advises her to find Tom and "set him right", and warns her against Nick Shadow. She announces her intent to return to her life on the stage. In a graveyard, Nick reveals his identity and demands payment from Tom, in the form of his soul; but as midnight strikes, Nick offers him an escape in the form of a game of cards, which Tom wins, thanks to the benign influence of Anne. Defeated, Nick sinks into the ground, condemning Tom to insanity as he goes. Consigned to Bedlam, Tom believes he is Adonis. Anne ("Venus") visits him, sings him to sleep, then quietly leaves him. When he realises she has gone, he dies.

In an epilogue, each of the principal characters gives a moral drawn from their scenes in the opera, and then come together to ascribe a final joint moral, "for idle hands, and hearts and minds, the Devil finds a work to do."


Tom Rakewell – Tenor (lyric)

A Rake

Anne Trulove – Soprano (dramatic coloratura)

Tom's betrothed

Nick Shadow – Baritone/Bass-baritone (dramatic)

A Devilish Manservant

Baba the Turk – Mezzo-soprano

A Bearded Lady

Father Trulove – Bass (dramatic)

Anne's Father

Sellem – Tenor (buffo)

An Auctioneer

Mother Goose – Contralto

A Whore

Keeper of the Madhouse – Bass


Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky

Place of birth: Oranienbaum, Russia
Place of death: New York, United States

composer igor stravinsky


Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky was a Russian-born composer, pianist, and conductor. He is widely considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century.

Stravinsky's compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. He first achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresario Serge Diaghilev and first performed in Paris by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913). The latter transformed the way in which subsequent composers thought about rhythmic structure and was largely responsible for Stravinsky's enduring reputation as a musical revolutionary who pushed the boundaries of musical design.

His "Russian phase", which continued with works such as Renard, L'Histoire du soldat, and Les Noces, was followed in the 1920s by a period in which he turned to neoclassicism. The works from this period tended to make use of traditional musical forms (concerto grosso, fugue, and symphony) and drew from earlier styles, especially those of the 18th century.

In the 1950s, Stravinsky adopted serial procedures. His compositions of this period shared traits with examples of his earlier output: rhythmic energy, the construction of extended melodic ideas out of a few two- or three-note cells, and clarity of form and instrumentation.


“I haven't understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it.”


Stravinsky was romantically involved with Coco Chanel.

He loved playing Scrabble.

Most prominent operas

The Rake's Progress 1951


Wystan Hugh Auden

Chester Kallman

The libretto is written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, and is loosely based on the eight paintings and engravings A Rake's Progress by William Hogarth.

W. H. Auden was an English-American poet, playwright, critic and librettist. One of his best known works is Funeral blues (Stop all the clocks), a poem about love.

Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for co-writing librettos for Igor Stravinsky with W. H. Auden.




2d1, 2d1, 2, 2 - 2, 2, 0, 0
timp, perc, bells, harpsichord (piano), strings



The Rake's Progress premiered at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, in 1951.



Act 1

Aria - No word from Tom (Anne Trulove)

Aria – Love, too frequently betrayed (Tom Rakewell)

Act 2

Aria - As I was saying, both brothers wore moustaches act (Baba the Turk)

Act 3

Aria – Gently, little boat (Anne Trulove)