THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA
Music by Benjamin Britten
Libretto by Ronald Duncan
After the play by André Obey
A New BLO Production
Sung in English with English surtitles
MON 11 | 7:30 PM
WED 13 | 7:30 PM
FRI 15 | 7:30 PM
SAT 16 | 7:30 PM
SUN 17 | 5:00 PM
Performance running time is approximately 110 minutes, with no intermission. Due to the nature of this production, any patrons who arrive after the start of the show will not be able to access their ticketed seats and any patrons who get up during the performance will not be able to return to their original seat. Alternative seating will be provided. TALKBACKS will be held immediately following each performance.
RARELY-SEEN MASTERPIECE | POWERFUL AND INTIMATE | SOARING LYRICAL SCORE
A devastating act of violence, and one woman’s decision to speak the truth—the story of Lucretia ignited a nation and has entranced artists like Shakespeare, Botticelli and more for centuries. Through Britten’s searing and intimate score, experience a legend of lust, power, and politics that resonates powerfully from ancient times to ours.
Lucretia sketch by Costume Designer Robert Perdziola
See the Explore section below for more information
As the title indicates, The Rape of Lucretia contains scenes of violence, misogyny, and sexual assault. In order to help you best prepare for the opera, please note that this synopsis contains plot details and events.
A Male and Female Chorus explain the situation in Rome: the city has been seized by a foreign power and is ruled by fear and terror. Tarquinius, the debauched new prince, is leading its forces against a Greek invasion. The Male and Female Chorus describe themselves as observers from a later, Christian era.
Wig and Makeup Designer
Jason Allen has been Boston Lyric Opera’s resident Wig and Makeup Designer since 2003. A fixture of the Boston performing arts community, he also works with Huntington Theatre Company, Boston Ballet, and many other organizations in Boston and throughout the country.
CHAMBER ENSEMBLE FROM THE BOSTON LYRIC OPERA ORCHESTRA
ANNIE RABBAT Concertmaster
REHEARSAL COACH/ACCOMPANIST BRENDON SHAPIRO†
Sponsored by Susan A. Babson Opera Fund for Emerging Artists
ASSISTANT STAGE DIRECTOR KIRSTEN Z. CAIRNS
ASSISTANT STAGE DIRECTOR & COMPANY INTIMACY ADVOCATE MELANIE BACALING†
STAGE MANAGER WHITNEY MCANALLY*
*Boston Lyric Opera Debut
† Boston Lyric Opera Jane and Steven Akin Emerging Artist
‡ Boston Lyric Opera Jane and Steven Akin Emerging Artist Alumnus
Artists for Humanity EpiCenter
100 West 2nd Street,
Fort Point, Boston
THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA will be performed in the newly renovated and expanded Artists for Humanity EpiCenter, rendered above. Learn more at afhboston.org.
Make a day or night of it!
40 W 3rd St, South Boston, MA 02127
2 minute walk to venue
Gastropub. Converted warehouse with a cozy cafe, a dining room with food trucks & a raw bar–equipped roof deck.
80 W Broadway, Boston, MA 02127
3 minute walk to venue
American Restaurant. Longtimer providing classic American & Italian meals in a genteel pub setting with an 1800s bar.
75 W Broadway, South Boston, MA 02127
3 minute walk to venue
American Restaurant. Open mornings. Southie favorite for crème brûlée French toast, bottomless cups of joe & a classic, retro vibe.
152 Dorchester Ave, Boston, MA 02127
4 minute walk to venue
This global eatery mixes street food with East Coast & Asian flavors & also has a late-night menu.
22 W Broadway, Boston, MA 02127
5 minute walk to venue
American Restaurant. Racetrack-themed spot with penny-covered bar serving pub grub & deep list of whiskeys & craft beers.
The Rape of Lucretia, based on a story from Roman lore, has inspired countless artists, writers, and musicians throughout the centuries. Robert Perdziola’s costume designs bring these legendary characters to life through rich details and historical inspirations.
Set Design Models
Set designer Mikiko Suzuki Adams creates an innovative installation that evokes the environment of ancient Roman and Greek theatre.
I began writing this blog post a couple of weeks prior to the opening of Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia in March, Boston Lyric Opera’s third production of the Season, opening. Since then, Emerson College, where I attend graduate school, has come under fire after several unidentified students posted a list of names of students who violated the sexual misconduct policy. As I’m writing this today, the New York Times published an article about Swarthmore College fraternity members historically and presently committing acts of sexual violence that have been repeatedly ignored by the administration.
Lucretia made the ultimate sacrifice in order to reclaim her body and her story. Yet, despite her intent, both continue to be the canvas upon which artists’ interpretations play out, with different versions and different points of view rewriting her narrative. At Boston Lyric Opera’s production of The Rape of Lucretia, this lobby installation was conceived and designed by director Sarna Lapine, Michelle Lapine McCabe of Hivemind, and John Conklin, dramaturg and BLO’s Artistic Advisor. The fragments of Lucretia’s story are deconstructed elements from canonical Old Masters paintings, linked in full below. The installation itself reminds the audience that stories are manipulated by arrangement, interpretation, emphasis, and absence. The artists, the composer, the director and the designers all contribute to the reconstruction of Lucretia’s story onstage, while moving through the visual space of the lobby and into the lyrical space of the opera, the audience too participates in the taking of Lucretia’s tale and making it their own.
The rape of Lucretia is a narrative rooted in historical fact: the tale of a Roman matron’s rape and subsequent suicide has lived on in the Western imagination for 2,500 years. This story has taken many forms in literature and in art, most of which have come from a male perspective. What developed is a mythology of Lucretia, an object of desire whose destruction gave rise to many interpretations. When she was used as a symbol of courageous resistance to the oppression of a Roman tyrant, her story inspired the historical revolt against the last Roman monarchy. What did the story mean to Benjamin Britten, when he created it in the 1940s? And what does it mean to us today as we view it?
The World Premiere of Benjamin Britten’s opera The Rape of Lucretia took place in 1946, almost a decade before David Angus was born. The composer died in 1976 when Angus was only 20, so the conductor of Boston Lyric Opera’s current production of Lucretia is too young to have become a member of Britten’s immediate circle of friends and interpreters. But as member of the King’s College (Cambridge) Choir, he did sing under Britten’s baton in a 1970 concert in Snape Maltings, the auditorium of the composer’s summer festival on the northeast coast of England. Only a year earlier, Snape Maltings had been destroyed by fire, and the work that reopened the hall and the festival in 1970was Britten’s vernal “Spring” Symphony, which remains a favorite of Angus’s – and at the drop of a hat he can still sing lilting lines from the boys’ choruses. “It was a great experience for all of us – as choirboys we sang every day, and music became our language.”
The virtuous victim. The doomed hero. The social outcast. These tragic figures preoccupied composer Benjamin Britten (1913–1976), inspiring him to become the first modern British composer to achieve international success in opera, chief creator of the Aldeburgh Festival (1948), and founder of the English Opera Group. The Rape of Lucretia, begun during the last years of World War II, marks a decisive break with the grand opera tradition. An amalgam of frenzied emotional power and expressive richness, it is the most transparent and tension-filled of Britten’s mid-century works, combining his beautiful melodic writing with dramatic pungency and colorful tone painting. Lucretia’s unstable mix of pagan brutality, sexual politics, and passionate Christian moralizing, shows Britten struggling to find meaning in the post-war world.
Whether you live in the city or are just visiting there are always new places to explore and discover. Why not pair your trip to the opera with a day of new experiences? Our next opera, The Rape of Lucretia, will be held at the Artist for Humanity EpiCenter in Fort Point and just a few minutes from the South Boston Seaport. Be sure to buy your tickets then check out our suggestions for things to do, eat, and visit before or after your show:
Our Spring Season begins with the powerful story of Lucretia, a woman whose choice to speak up sparked change. Hear General and Artistic Director Esther Nelson discuss why BLO selected this opera and why you should witness this remarkable story. Watch the video or read the transcribed copy. “This Season, we really celebrate the power of the human spirit, particularly when faced with adversity or injustice. So this Season, we look at a wide range of stories going back to 2500 years ago [with] a historical- or based on a historical- Roman legend of a woman who dares to speak out against her rapist and her offender. And 2500 years ago she is heard. In fact, that particular incident launched a succession that ultimately toppled the government at that time. So there is incredible power. Why I would encourage anyone to come to this opera is that it isn’t actually the act of rape [that] is theatrically central. It is the impact. And it is an incredibly powerful story and music about empathy. You will walk away from this opera feeling empowered and enriched and, I believe, with a deeper sense of understanding. I do believe this is the right time, and I invite all our patrons to make the leap if you are hesitant. You will not regret it.”
The story of Lucretia has fascinated and provoked much of Western civilization for more than 2,500 years, endlessly interpreted and reconsidered through philosophy, art, music, and drama. Yet, Lucretia herself remains elusive, her character explored in fragments by a variety of interpreters and the meaning of her tale more a measure of the current time’s morals and culture than it is a fixed dictum handed down from the ancients. She speaks little before the story’s central act of sexual assault and defines herself largely in terms of men—her husband and her father—yet her voice carries tremendous weight when she publicly names her assaulter. It is that strong, raw cry for justice that ultimately serves as the tipping point which incites a revolution against a corrupt dynasty. Lucretia is a creation of allegory, history and myth entwined, one that can help us understand on one level, the founding of the ancient Roman Republic; on another, the inherent tension between honor, patriarchy, and tyranny; and on still another, the nature of power itself.
The story of Lucretia encompasses a brutal sexual attack, the tragic and devastating personal action that follows it, and the momentous political events that subsequently arise from it—a relatively straightforward narrative sequence. But the complex ambiguities and the disturbing moral and psychological interpretations that lie below the surface have long fascinated writers, painters, composers, and philosophers. And, of course, it is to be discouragingly (but crucially) noted that, for the most part, these are male viewpoints. As we anticipate the new BLO production of Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, we examine some of the various accounts of this…legend? myth? moral fable?...as well as touch on its origin as historical actuality.
THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA Music by BENJAMIN BRITTEN Libretto by RONALD DUNCAN After the play by ANDRÉ OBEY By arrangement with Boosey & Hawkes, Inc., publisher and copyright owner Sung in English with English surtitles Length: Approximately 110 minutes, with no intermission WHO’S WHO KELLEY O’CONNOR as Lucretia | DUNCAN ROCK as Tarquinius Kelley and DuncanConducted by DAVID ANGUS, Directed by SARNA LAPINE, Scenic Design by MIKIKO SUZUKI MACADAMS, Costume Design by ROBERT PERDZIOLA, Lighting Design by JOEY MORO, Intimacy/Movement Director YURY YANOWSKY, and Dramaturg JOHN CONKLIN. THE RAPE OF LUCRETIAMusic by BENJAMIN BRITTENLibretto by RONALD DUNCANAfter the play by ANDRÉ OBEYBy arrangement with Boosey & Hawkes, Inc., publisher and copyright ownerSung in English with English surtitlesLength: Approximately 110 mi...
Community Partnerships: Spring 2019
1 in 3 women. 1 in 6 men.1
Sexual violence is all too pervasive throughout the United States.
Those statistics are even more striking here in Massachusetts, our home, where nearly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lives.2
Sexual violence affects people of all genders, races, ethnicities, socio-economic statuses, abilities, religions, and sexual orientations.
And we need to talk about it.
The Handmaid’s Tale, an operatic adaptation by Poul Ruders of Margaret Atwood’s classic novel, invokes a dark fictional near-future, set in a fundamentalist theocracy. We see the story through the narrative of one Handmaid of Gilead, a woman stripped of her name and her rights, forced to bear children for the elite.
- Deepen BLO’s understanding of the dynamics of sexual and intimate partner violence through workshops and trainings.
- Provide a variety of supports to the audience experience at the theatre, including trained representatives on site to answer questions, talkbacks with experts alongside BLO artists, and referrals and resources.
- Enrich our opera performances onstage through artistic consultation and support.
If you are interested in learning more, please visit our partner organizations.1Via BARCC; Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.
2Via Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence; data compiled from Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.
THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA Reviews are In!
Many treatments of the legend have us looking at Lucretia. In this production, she answers back.
– Jeffrey Gantz, Boston Globe
Gripping, expressive and powerful! A vivid and economical new production.
– Aaron Keebaugh, Boston Classical Review
A triumph for BLO
– Jack Craib, South Shore Critic
An absolute treasure of a production…as intelligent and timely as it is dramatic and riveting.
– Arturo Fernandez, Schmopera