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Britten – The Rape of Lucretia

Recorded at English National Opera, 1987

Arthaus Musik 102 021 (1 DVD – 109 minutes)


Conductor – Lionel Friend

Stage Director – Graham Vick

Designer – Russell Craig

TV Producer – Janet Walker

Lighting Director – Howard King


Male Chorus – Anthony Rolfe Johnson

Female Chorus – Kathryn Harries

Lucretia – Jean Rigby

Tarquinius – Russell Smythe

Collatinus – Richard van Allan

Junius – Alan Opie

Bianca – Anne-Marie Owens

Lucia – Cathryn Pope

Channel Four Television commissioned a specially-staged studio recording of ENO's 1987 The Rape of Lucretia , and it is good to have this back in the catalogue in DVD format. Graham Vick's sparse production with bare floorboards, sliding panels, and simple, muted -colour costumes has weathered well. The twilight first act is filmed under sepia filters displaying the characters in silhouette form against the screens, and providing wonderful soft images. The contrast provided by the arrival of morning sunlight is especially welcome making “ Oh, what a lovely day” completely appropriate. At last we can see the expressions on the singers' faces.

As Britten intended The Male and Female Chorus are positioned on a platform remote from the action, which puts them largely out of the eye of the camera with merely their disembodied voices adding a sympathetic commentary to the events on stage. Fortunately Anthony Rolfe Johnson and Kathryn Harries have marvelously clear diction, and every word gets across.

Whilst every word counts in the opera, projection of the characters' inner consciousness and unspoken words is of equal importance, and the fine acting cast led by Jean Rigby (Lucretia) and Richard van Allan (Collatinus) display all the poignancy of their predicament. Alan Opie contributes a strong cameo (Junius) and the voices of Anne-Marie Owens (Bianca) and Cathryn Pope (Lucia) blend nice ly as they go about their domestic tasks.

Lionel Friend is in full control of the twelve instrument chamber orchestra revealing all the mastery of Britten's luminous score.

© Serena Fenwick