Glyndebourne’s 2015 performance of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia

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LABELS: Opus Arte
WORKS: The Rape of Lucretia
PERFORMER: Christine Rice, Allan Clayton, Kate Royal, Duncan Rock, Matthew Rose, Michael Sumuel, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Louise Alder; LPO/Leo Hussain; dir. Fiona Shaw (Glyndebourne, 2015)
CATALOGUE NO: Opus Arte OA 1219 D


There’s a revealing moment in one of the extra features that come with this DVD of Fiona Shaw’s production of The Rape of Lucretia. The detail, says Shaw, is ‘there for the taking’. So it was at Glyndebourne in 2015, with a cast ideally balanced in ability and imagination, and a staging that had matured beautifully since its first, slightly unfocused incarnation as a touring production in 2013.

Conducted by Leo Hussain, the playing of the 11 members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Glyndebourne pianist Helen Collyer is matchless, running from brutal shrieks to the sheerest skeins of sound. The singing is eloquent and sensual, with a beautifully blended Male and Female Chorus (Allan Clayton and Kate Royal), a grave and loving Lucretia and Collatinus (Christine Rice and Matthew Rose), a dangerous, hungry Tarquinius (Duncan Rock), and thoughtfully nuanced contrasts between the volatile encampment where Junius (Michael Sumuel) sulks, and the tender domesticity of Bianca and Lucia (Catherine Wyn-Rogers and Louise Alder).

Shaw adds two extra female characters: a slave who is brutally abused by Tarquinius, and Lucretia’s daughter. The Male and Female Chorus are intrinsic to her story, assisting or resisting Tarquinius and Lucretia as they uncover evidence of their story in an architectural dig. On DVD, directed by François Roussillon, the depth of Shaw’s work with the singers is made clear in close-up. But the details she mentioned are thrust at you by Roussillon, and subtle repetitions of cruciform or floral accents in Michael Irvine’s designs become didactic. It remains an astonishing live performance.

Anna Picard


Listen to an excerpt from this recording here.