The Rape of Lucretia


Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976) / Haus der Berliner Festspiele

Haus der Berliner Festspiele

Opera in one act with prelude; Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal; Premiere of 1st version: Stuttgart, 25th October 1912; Premiere of 2nd version: Vienna, 4th October 1916

In English language with German and English surtitels

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Cast

Conductor Nicholas Carter
Stage Director Fiona Shaw
Set Design Michael Levine
Costume Design Nicky Gillibrand
Light Design Paul Anderson
Male Chorus Thomas Blondelle
Female Chorus Ingela Brimberg
Collatinus Tobias Kehrer
Junius Seth Carico
Tarquinius Noel Bouley
Lucretia Katarina Bradic
Bianca Ronnita Miller
Lucia Elena Tsallagova
Orchestra Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin
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When it came to composing his second opera, a year after the first-night success of his PETER GRIMES, Benjamin Britten opted for a radical change of “format”. Rejecting the cumbersome route involving chorus, full orchestra and multiple soloists – for which, in the immediate post-war years, the funding and audiences were lacking -, he launched into the composition of a chamber opera. Costs were to be kept to a minimum and the work was to be so flexible in its logistics that it could be performed on small stages and toured to the provinces. With his colleagues from the PETER GRIMES period, Eric Crozier, singer and theatre manager Joan Cross (his first Ellen Orford) and his partner, the tenor Peter Pears, Britten founded the Glyndebourne English Opera Group, which was later to spawn the English Opera Group and the Aldeburgh Festival. The first project of this new creative troupe was THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA.

Britten considered the ancient tale of the Roman Lucretia, a faithful and loving wife who is raped by the unscrupulous Tarquinius and commits suicide as a result, to be an apt subject for traumatised post-war audiences. Using an orchestra of only 13 musicians and eight soloists, he came up with a work of thrilling intensity that is also one of his most lyrically beautiful pieces. Informed by the traditions of baroque opera, with its clear demarcation of arioso and recitativo sections, the work is overtly and deliberately reminiscent of Purcell, the most important English writer of operas before Britten. The chorus, accompanying and commenting on the action, is a reference to an ancient format, albeit here only in the form of one man [“Male Chorus”] and one woman [“Female Chorus”]. Britten created the title role for the celebrated alto Kathleen Ferrier, with Peter Pears taking the part of the “Male Chorus” and Joan Cross singing the “Female Chorus”.

A production of the Glyndebourne Festival Opera
Premiered on 19th October, 2013 in Glyndebourne

Presented by kulturradio vom rbb, tip berlin and taz.die tageszeitung.