In the UK-Russia Year of Music 2019, the Novaya Opera presents the first Moscow production of Benjamin Britten’s outstanding opera The Rape of Lucretia (1946). The theatre continues the English line in its repertoire: previously the Novaya Opera produced DIDO (its second part is a baroque masterpiece, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas) and Britten’s The Turn of the Screw.
The Rape of Lucretia is the composer’s very significant work. He wrote an amazing chamber opera for only 8 singers and an orchestra of 13 instruments. Though he began to compose chamber operas rather for costs reasons, Britten appreciated this genre very much. “It (chamber opera) gives the opportunity to focus on human psychology. And it is precisely this that has become the central theme of modern progressive art”. Ronald Duncan’s libretto is based on André Obey’s drama and William Shakespeare’s poem The Rape of Lucrece.
This is a kind of a parable, a very deep and at the same time refined analysis of human psychology. Lucretia, the spouse of Roman general Collatinus, is a paragon of virtue and true love. Sextus Tarquinius, Tarquinius Superbus’ son, tries to inveigle her and, not having succeeded, rapes her. “The early Roman story of Lucretia is an important theme in European culture (one of the versions is the painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1529). Britten enlarges the theme by introducing two narrators on the pattern of old passions, which is a nod to Christian tradition. Interrupting the course of the drama, they emotionally comment on the action and represent the voice of the author and fate and even the inner voice of the characters, confirming the dominant idea of morality based on the later Christian values.” (Mikhail Muginshtein)
Examining the depth of the subconscious, Britten lays emphasis on human exaltation: rejecting violence, Lucretia blames herself like Oedipus of ancient Greece; it is the bravery of true morality. Thus the story of a woman reflects the entire spiritual path of humanity.
June Thursday 19:00
The Kolobov Novaya Opera Theatre 3/2 Karetny Ryad (Hermitage Garden), Moscow, 127006, Russia