Oliver Knussen's account of 'The Rape Of Lucretia' recorded live in Snape
Maltings at last year's Aldeburgh Festival arrives in time to celebrate
Benjamin Britten's centenary. Never the easiest of his operas to aproach, not
least of all because of its horrifying narrative (the defilement of Collatinus'
wife Lucretia by the Roman ruler's son Tarquinius) but also for its angular,
abrasive musical style. The piece has far more in common with the Modernist
European tradition of composition than other works in Britten's operatic cannon.
Under Mr Knussen's baton The Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble, chorus and soloists
deliver a consummate performance. Ian Bostridge (a worthy heir to Peter Pear's
unimpeachable legacy) and Susan Gritton sing the male and female chorus parts
impeccably; Peter Coleman-Wright's Tarqinious is the embodiment of unthinking evil and
Angelika Kirschlager as Lucretia in her Act II, Scene I and (especially) Act II, Scene II
duets, with Tarquinius and Collatinus repectively, are terrifying and heartrending in
equal measure. The band is on top form, enhanced by The Maltings' warm ambience.
Not an easy listen but the sense of raw, unspeakable tension is palpable.