OP0378. THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA (Britten), Live Performance, 2 Oct., 1946, Stadsschouwburg, Amsterdam, w.Goodall Cond. English Opera Group; Otakar Krauss, Kathleen Ferrier, Peter Pears, Joan Cross, Owen Brannigan, Edmund Donleavy, Margaret Ritchie, etc.; BILLY BUDD – Excerpts, Live Performance, 1 Dec., 1951, (World Première), w.Britten Cond. Royal Opera House Ensemble; Theodore Uppman, Peter Pears, Frederick Dalberg, Michael Langdon, Geraint Evans, etc. (Portugal) 2-Gala 100.560. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 8712177037476
“Benjamin Britten's opera THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA was first performed at Glyndebourne in July 1946, just 13 months after the triumphant premiere of his PETER GRIMES, which had been hailed as signaling a renaissance in English opera.
Yet the two works could hardly be more different. Where GRIMES was a grand opera, with chorus and full orchestra, firmly rooted in the 19th-century tradition, its successor is at the other end of the scale, requiring just eight singers and 13 musicians, and part of what can be now be seen as an essentially 20th-century fascination with the economy and directness of stripped-down music theatre.
The premiere was given by the newly formed Glyndebourne English Opera Company - with Kathleen Ferrier as Lucretia, and Peter Pears and Joan Cross as the Male and Female Choruses. It was the director and writer Eric Crozier who suggested that André Obey's play LE VIOL DE LUCRÈCE could be the basis of an opera, and the composer asked his friend Ronald Duncan to provide the libretto. What Duncan came up with has been the source of debate ever since; its high-flown imagery and explicit Christian message have repelled some, as much as they have been approved by others.
In the story of the faithful and virtuous Lucretia's rape by the politically ambitious Etruscan Tarquinius, Britten had identified his persistent themes - the corruption of innocence, and the outsider in society, so dominant in PETER GRIMES. The faithfulness of Lucretia to her husband Collatinus is very much the exception rather than the rule in the libidinous Rome of the opera. In Britten's dramatic scheme the Male and Female Choruses are more than just story-tellers. They describe and comment on the action, but gradually find their detachment subverted by the horror of what is happening, and provide the bridge between these events, which take place in classical, pre-Christian times, and the present- day audience, as both conscience and commentators.
The score is a model of economy, creating a sound world of vivid evocation, while the interweaving of self-contained numbers with music that is more freely organised, shows how Britten had rethought his approach to opera and to the operatic tradition after GRIMES.
- Andrew Clements, THE GUARDIAN, 31 May, 2001
“Pears made a unique contribution to twentieth-century music, not only as an interpreter of exceptional artistry and intelligence but also as the inspiration and muse of his lifelong companion, Benjamin Britten.”
- Ned Ludd