Britten’s The Rape of Lucretiabased on the play by André Obey—returned to Glyndebourne in 2015, nearly 70 years after its premiere there in 1946. Fiona Shaw, also known for her performance as Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter films, directed the staging for this production.
Britten wrote this work in hope of encouraging a return to truly "English" opera. The Rape of Lucretia stands apart from Britten’s other works as it is the only one with a mythological subject. It is also his first "chamber opera" and the work's intimate and haunting atmosphere leaves a stunning impression.
This two act opera recounts the story of the young Lucretia, the faithful and loving wife of the Roman general Collatinus. As the play opens, we find Collatinus with his comrades, Tarquinius and Junius, who have been destroyed by the recent discovery that their wives were unfaithful to them during their absence. Tarquinius, the ruler of Rome, is goaded into agreeing to test Lucretia’s chastity himself and leaves the military camp to visit his friend's wife. During Collatinus' absence, Lucretia has longing for her distant husband. One evening, there comes a knock on her door from Tarquinius. Though fearful, she cannot refuse to offer the prince her hospitality.
Photo: © Robbie Jack