The Rape of Lucretia

Britten’s Rape of Lucretia, which premiered at Glyndebourne in 1946, is an interesting work in a number of ways.  Musically it marks a distinct break from Peter Grimes and anticipates the later operas in a number of significant ways.  It’s written for much lighter forces than Grimes; string quintet, wind quintet plus harp, percussion and piano and there’s no chorus (in the conventional sense).  It’s also not a “numbers” piece.  There are no set pieces here.  The orchestral writing is spare and somewhat dissonant with that absolute clarity that is so characteristic of Britten.  Sometimes this almost distracts from the drama on stage.

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