Magazine article Gramophone

Britten: The Rape of Lucretia

Magazine article Gramophone

Britten: The Rape of Lucretia

Article excerpt

Britten                   [DVD] [BR] [G] The Rape of Lucretia  Christine Rice mez              Lucretia Allan Clayton ten            Male Chorus Kate Royal sop             Female Chorus Duncan Rock tot               Tarquinius Matthew Rose bass             Collatinus Michael Sumuel bass-bar           Junius Catherine Wyn-Rogers mez           Lucia Louise Alder sop                  Bianca 

London Philharmonic Orchestra / Leo Hussain

Stage director Fiona Shaw

Video director Francois Roussillon

Opus Arte (F) [DVD] OA1219D; (F) [BR] OABD7206D (114' +17' * NTSC * 16:9 * 1080p * DTS-HD MA5.1, DTS5.1 & PCM stereo * 0 * S/s)

Extra features: 'Post-War Britten: the History of Lucretia'; 'Innocence Corrupted: a Conversation with Fiona Shaw'; Cast Gallery Recorded live at Glyndeboume, August 9,2015

Fiona Shaw's production of Britten's first chamber opera opened during the Glyndebourne tour in 2013--the composer's centenary year--and was revived at the main festival two years later, when this DVD was filmed. In the opinion of many, it marked a belated homecoming. The opera was written for and premiered at Glyndebourne in 1946, and the accompanying documentary chronicles the impact of post-war austerity on both the subject and scale of the piece--that it was a chamber opera had as much to do with financial necessity as artistic choice--and outlines the consequences of the subsequent UK tour that led to an eventual riff between Britten and John Christie.

The aftermath of the Second World War to some extent forms Shaw's starting point. She dispenses with the idea that the Male and Female Choruses (Allan Clayton and Kate Royal) should be detached from the action and reimagines them as a pair of archeologists, themselves traumatised by war, who piece the opera's narrative together from what they unearth during a dig, and whose relationship and beliefs are challenged by what they find. The concept allows Shaw to probe both the work's unstable mix of pagan brutality and Christian moralising, and its sometimes troubling sexual politics.

Clayton develops an initial fascination with Tarquinius's insistent sexuality, gleefully carrying him piggyback to Rome during the first-act interlude, before turning away in revulsion as the danger to Christine Rice's Lucretia becomes increasingly clear. Royal, in a crisis of faith, soon abandons the Bible we find her clutching at the start and later proffers Lucretia the crucifix she wears round her neck in the unavailing hope of providing some comfort. …

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