The Rape of Lucretia BYO Peacock Theatre 07 September


Symmetry is violated for once (picture from BYO site)

Let’s start with the good news:  enough of what is in my opinion the most beautiful music in all opera (outside of Cosi fan tutte) came across to engage the audience at critical moments, and the ensembles were uniformly lovely.

On the trial match side of things, Kate Symonds-Joy as Lucretia’s nurse Bianca can surely see her name inked in on the teamsheet of a successful career, especially after her earlier run-out in Il Giasone.  Although they quite often seemed disengaged (that trial match feeling again), each of Barnaby Rea (Collatinus), Ashley Riches (Prince Tarquinius) and Rowan Hellier (Lucretia) did manage to pull something out on occasions when it mattered.

But…but…both the orchestra (Southbank Sinfonia, under the direction of Peter Robinson) and the production (director Martin Lloyd-Evans) seemed to be in difficulties coming to terms with the piece.  I do wonder how many of the singers will have been audible beyond the first few rows, and I don’t think that any of the singers playing the  noble characters really inhabited their roles.

The orchestral playing was often stolid and leaden, lacking in subtlety and variation, while the production frequently resorted to arranging the performers symmetrically around the one downstage centre, and in the worst case they stood in a line staring at the audience.  I think that this approach should be severely avoided in what is anyway a rather static piece; and having the characters symmetrically disposed in empty space only compounds the offence.

The production also decided that it was going to tell us what to think about the notorious disconnect between the words and music in the “so that’s all right” ending.*

But as I said I believe that enough came across to make a rewarding evening.

Is it all?
Is all this suffering and pain
Is this in vain?
Does this old world grow old in sin alone?
Can we attain nothing
But wider oceans of our own tears?
And it, can it gain nothing
But drier deserts of forgotten years?
For this did I see with my undying eye
His warm blood spill
Upon that hill
And dry upon that Cross?
Is this all loss? Are we lost?
Answer us
Or let us die in our wilderness.
Is it all? Is this it all?
It is not all.
Though our nature’s still as frail
And we still fall, and that great crowd’s no less
Along that road endless and uphill;
For now he bears our sin and does not fall
And He, carrying all turns round
Stoned with our doubt and then forgive us all.
For us did He live with such humility
For us did He die that we might live, and He
Wounds that we make and scars that we are.
In His Passion is our hope
Jesus Christ, Saviour. He is all! He is all!

Since time commenced or life began
Great love has been defiled by fate or man.
Now with worn words and these brief notes we
To harness song to human tragedy.


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