Survivor’s guilt: Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, Guildhall School

The Rape of Lucretia finds Britten trying to come to terms with World War Two, and his own absence from the action as a conscientious objector, by evoking ideas of youthful beauty and innocence before allowing them to be brutally destroyed on stage by the ugly and unrestrained wielding of greedy power, using the structure of an ancient Roman story of virtue. The constant opposition of male and female in Britten’s score, as drums batter an opposing rhythm into a sinuous flute line, or the ribald exchanges of the soldiers cut across the eerie, mysterious narration from the Chorus, ensures the tension ratchets up constantly: it’s not a relaxing night at the opera, but its vicious intensity is utterly appropriate.

Ronald Duncan’s exquisite libretto, meanwhile, is so meltingly poetic that I have finally decided to buy myself a copy.

The current production at the Guildhall features two complete casts, and although the cast I saw lacked evenness, this was made up for by the outstanding quality of the best performances.

Click here to read my full review on Bachtrack.

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