Magazine article Musical Opinion

A Festival Concert Rape

Magazine article Musical Opinion

A Festival Concert Rape

Article excerpt

Why on earth did Benjamin Britten choose to set Obey's The Rape of Lucretia as his first chamber opera in 1947, two years after his world-wide success with Peter Grimes! Was it an attempt to be 'with it' or to prove something? And why, with his sensitivity to literature, did he put up with his friend Ronald Duncan's translation? True, it has some good lines and ideas, but it also has some horrors: 'Oatmeal slippers of night', for example. And then there is that coda that rather priggishly tries to add a Christian gloss to a Roman tale. A rum go!

This was a concert performance put together by the conductor Oliver Knussen which was more powerful than any, including the composer's, that I've heard, its impact only impeded by Knussen placing the cast behind the orchestra for the sake of stronger control; the result, as usual, was less power and fewer words audible. Except that the Male Chorus was allowed a frontal position and was wonderfully and clearly sung by Ian Bostridge. …

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