Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Figures at the base of a crucifixion (Lucretia/Glyndeboure)

Britten, Rape of Lucretia (Leo Hussain cond. London Philharmonic Orchestra, Glyndebourne Festival)

I first saw Fiona Shaw's production of The Rape of Lucretia on tour in Milton Keynes in the autumn of 2013, when everyone was going nuts for the Britten centenary. It was then conducted by Nicolas Collon and included Kate Valentine as female chorus. This has now been taken to the festival with substantial overlap of the modest cast (an asterisk on the list below indicates continuity).
This change is something like the jump between a second wine and a grand vin: more power, more style, but many similar characteristics, and in a good vintage, one might even confuse the two. So too here, such was the production values. How much does the upgraded festival add to the production? Not all that much. How much does the LPO bring to it over the Tour Orchestra? A lot. The really clever thing which is achieved is to bring the beauty of the libretto to the fore: one could sit and read it as poetry. One fine example:
'So will my little vase contain
the sun's exuberance
slaked with rain'
It must be read in the context of 1946, and the preamble film made an especially good job of doing this. The number of coupons to get the cheesecloth to make the costumes; the small orchestra. And the aching harp motif.
Two years earlier Bacon painted his famous triptych Three studies for figures for the base of a crucifixion (Tate). The suffering seems to have struck a chord in the aftermath of war. I still don't feel comfortable with the God bit tacked on at the end of the opera. This is partly the opera at fault, but partly how it is managed in the production. It's the only bit of it I don't like.

Overall: this isn’t the sort of opera you’d want to see every year, however clever the production. However I think deciding not to see it at the festival due to having seen it on tour was probably a mistake. This is just done so well.


Performances 14 and 19 August to follow; stream online here until Sunday.

Cast and creatives
Conductor Leo Hussain
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Male Chorus Allan Clayton
Female Chorus Kate Royal
Collatinus Matthew Rose
Junius Michael Sumuel
*Tarquinius Duncan Rock
Lucretia Christine Rice
*Bianca Catherine Wyn-Rogers
Lucia Louise Alder
*Director Fiona Shaw
Set Designer Michael Levine
Costume Designer Nicky Gillibrand
*Lighting Designer Paul Anderson

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