Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Friday, October 14, 2016

A modern masterpiece brought to post-modern life

This new Opus Arte Blu-ray disc of last year's Glyndbourne production of Britten's The Rape of Lucretia is a very welcome record of the highly praised opera directed by Fiona Shaw. Shaw's concept adds new layers to the cleverly designed original concept of Britten and his librettist Ronald Duncan. There's an intended pun there, since the Male and Female Choruses act as if they were post-war British archaeologists uncovering the tragic story of Lucretia and her rape by Tarquinius, prince of Rome. We dig into the story through layers of dirt, and the set and lighting and costume design all focus our attention on Britten's perennial theme, the corruption of innocence. 

I watched this with the equally sordid American election swirling in the background, which seemed pertinent in a way, but unfortunate in others. There's lots in the story as told by Shaw that's vile, but it also has dignity and gravitas, and the violence of the central act is never gratuitous. That's helped immensely by the amazing acting and singing of the cast, and especially Christine Rice as Lucretia and Duncan Rock as Tarquinius. Musically as well we have the best possible players - thirteen musicians from the London Philharmonic Orchestra and their leader, Leo Hussain - who, as Fiona Shaw herself says, "have [the work] in their fingers, in their bodies." The HD sound and picture are outstanding; much more impressive than a video clip can put across. This is a modern masterpiece brought to post-modern life.

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