Wages of sing: Volunteer orchestra performs devilish opera

for Brooklyn Paper
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It’s a sinfully good show!

A Brooklyn orchestra is bringing debauchery Bach with a production of the sinful Stravinsky opera “The Rake’s Progress” on July 21 and 23. The production by the String Orchestra of Brooklyn is a rare opportunity to catch the devilish show, says its conductor.

“The show was extremely popular when it came out, but now it is not often done. Perhaps it is because of its smaller scale in comparison to today’s top 40 — opera houses are always concerned with providing a big spectacle,” said Tito Munoz. “It isn’t common to have the chance to hear it, and I think it is Stravinsky’s best score.”

The Faustian fairy tale follows a young anti-hero, Tom Rakewell, who abandons his well-to-do fiancée to embrace the pleasures of London’s underbelly. He is accompanied by Nick Shadow, the Devil in disguise, who tempts Rakewell further into self-destruction, as well as into some comic misadventures involving a bread-making machine and a marriage to a bearded lady.

The opera has quite a pedigree -- it is based on a series of paintings from 18th-century illustrator William Hogarth, which Igor Stravinsky set to music, with an English libretto by poets W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

The opera’s conductor lives in Arizona, where he is the music director for the Phoenix Symphony, but the New York City native returns to the city each year to work with the String Orchestra of Brooklyn.

“I am never around the city for very long, but it is such a treat to work with them that we try to make it happen!” said Munoz. “We do at least one project a year.”

The orchestra is a group of volunteers who meet to rehearse weekly, and which tries to make its shows as accessible to the community. Munoz says that any success the show has comes from the company’s incredible efforts.

“This production is amazing because the cast and orchestra are top notch,” said Munoz. “And the fact that everybody is freely donating so much time to this huge undertaking is just incredible.”

“The Rake’s Progress” at Roulette (509 Atlantic Ave. at in Boerum Hill, (917) 267–0363, July 21 and 23 at 8 pm. $10–$30.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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