Continuing my struggle with Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia I got hold of the Blu-ray recording of Fiona Shaw’s 2015 Glyndebourne production. I’m beginning, I think, to see my way to understanding the problems inherent in the libretto and some of the strategies that can be used to overcome them. The more minor problem is Junius and the odd scene early in Act 2 where he seems to be inciting the Romans to revolt while acting as a general in Tarquinius’ army while, also, apparently, been in some sense complicit in the rape. So we have a two faced power hungry schemer who is oblivious to the consequences of his mischief making; whether rape or rabble rousing (a sort of Roman Boris Johnson). Most productions ignore this aspect of things and probably rightly.
Every time I go to Roy Thomson Hall, as I did last night to see the TSO perform Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, I have to recalibrate for the acoustic. It’s just much quieter than the Four Season’s Centre and, indeed, many other venues. This has the advantage that coughing is largely inaudible but also that even a large orchestra playing full bore doesn’t exactly blow one’s socks off. So, perhaps it wasn’t a surprise that I was more struck by the meditative aspects of this score than its moments of high drama such as the chorus of demons. I’m pretty sure this was just the acoustic because conductor Peter Oundjian was certainly going for maximum effect in those sections. Continue reading →
This evening at 7.30pm at Trinity St. Paul’s The Talisker Players have their first concert of the season entitled Songs of Travel. Virginia Hatfield will be performing the French baroque work Le Sommeil d’Ulisse by Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre and the rarely performed Algoma Central by Louis Applebaum. Also featured is baritone Geoffrey Sirett in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel and Vally Weigl’s Songs of Love and Leaving. Also on tomorrow.
There a few things coming up in Toronto over the next week or two that might be worth a look.
Tomorrow at noon in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre Lauren Segal and Robert Gleadow accompanied by Sandra Horst are giving a free concert featuring Dvořák’s Gypsy Songs, de Falla’s Siete canciones populares Españolas, Ibert’s Chansons de Don Quichotte and Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel.
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.