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Britten: The Rape of Lucretia

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Product details

  • Orchestra: Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble
  • Conductor: Oliver Knussen
  • Composer: Benjamin Britten
  • Audio CD (14 Jan. 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: EMI
  • ASIN: B00A3NVB4S
  • Other Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 54,491 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Digital Booklet: Britten: The Rape of Lucretia
Digital Booklet: Britten: The Rape of Lucretia
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Product Description

Product Description

Recorded live in 2011 at the Aldeburgh Festival, this performance of his dark, intense chamber opera The Rape of Lucretia stars Angelika Kirchschlager, Peter Coleman-Wright and Ian Bostridge, with Oliver Knussen conducting. 'Everything, without exception, was right on the money,' said The Guardian,' ... a dazzling success.'

BBC Review

2013 sees the 100th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Britten. Doubtless many new recordings will emerge as part of the celebrations – and the bar is set very high with this Virgin Classics release of one of his less-familiar operas.

There are a number of reasons why The Rape of Lucretia, premiered in 1946, is relatively unloved – its grim subject matter, concerning the rape of a Roman general’s wife by their ruler Prince, and her subsequent suicide, probably being the foremost.

Another is its modest scale, employing a chamber ensemble rather than a lavish symphony orchestra. And, although the opera directly follows the widely appealing Peter Grimes in the canon of Britten’s operas, the musical style of Lucretia is more demanding, foreshadowing the oblique angularity of his late works.

But none of these potential difficulties are given a chance in this dramatically gripping account, recorded at concert performance at the Snape Maltings in Aldeburgh in 2011.

Oliver Knussen conducts a crack ensemble of instrumentalists, who have as vital a role as the cast. They fulfil it with vitality and total commitment – from gently caressing harp solos to passages of full-blooded orchestral power.

The singers, too, are first rate. Ian Bostridge and Susan Gritton play the storytelling Chorus with impassioned incisiveness, conveying the potentially dry prose with vivid theatricality and, at times, welcome wryness.

Angelika Kirchschlager gives a subtle, wonderfully lyrical portrayal of the title role, encompassing Lucretia's honest fidelity, vulnerability, torment and self-destructive anguish with moving conviction.

There are strong performances too from Christopher Purves as Lucretia's husband Collatinus and Peter Coleman-Wright's lust-obsessed Prince Tarquinius; the smaller roles also impress.

Although the story's brutality inevitably means that any performance of Lucretia is uncomfortable, Knussen and company ensure that Britten's score shines in a radiantly positive light, offsetting the skin-crawling nastiness with musical beauty – finely captured with excellent balance in the warm, clear Maltings acoustic.

The composer's own 1970 Decca recording has a unique authenticity and, in Janet Baker, a peerlessly expressive Lucretia. But this latest version complements it brilliantly, offering a thoroughly engrossing and deeply affecting experience that ought to win the opera many new admirers.

--Graham Rogers

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By The Wolf TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 30 Jan. 2013
Format: Audio CD
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.

Highly Recommended.
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Format: Audio CD
This is a war story that defies and defiles love. We must keep in mind we are just after the Second World War, just out of it, and the steady reference to Jesus Christ, to the Cross, to his death to save us makes the story of Lucretia a real annunciation that man’s curse cannot be redeemed. Jesus is compensation and not possible change. It is salvation that has to be brought back over and over again since man will always commit sins, a redemption that can only come after the crime. This somber Christian parabolic lesson is present from beginning to end and animates the whole tale.

The story is a simple as simple can be. Two generals, Junius and Collatinus, and one Prince, Tarquinius, are at war against the Greeks somewhere and they boast, some evening in camp when drinking and waiting for a battle to come some day, about women and how the wives of many generals were found unfaithful when checked upon, except Lucretia, Collatinus’ wife. According to Tarquinius women are the only end in life for him and for both Junius and Tarquinius all women are by nature unchaste. Tarquinius though boasts he can prove Lucretia is chaste and Junius dares him on that objective, both meaning Lucretia will be taken, for Junius because that’s the nature of all women and for Tarquinius because he is a hypocrite when asserting Lucretia is chaste: his objective is to take her. Sure enough Tarquinius takes a horse, gallops to Rome, visits late at night Lucretia’s home and spends the night there. During the night he takes Lucretia and rides her just the same utilitarian n way as a horse, and then he goes back to his horse and gallops back to camp before daybreak.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Beautiful clear recording of a very difficult work. The singing is crystal clear with great diction, rare with opera singers, a calm inexorable pace. Far better than the original, Peter Pears recording.
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