Review by Michael Piscitelli, assisted by Sylvie Di Leonardo
On those extra rare occasions at which I see an opera, I have a very specific friend that I take along, because I trust she will have a very well informed and eloquent opinion on what it is we’ve just seen. I’d like to thank Sylvie Di Leonardo for her very well informed input on The Rape of Lucretia by Benjamin Britten. The Rape of Lucretia is an opera written and performed in English celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. It follows the civil and political unrest within Rome around the time of Etruscan King Tarquinius Superbus. Photo courtesy of William Ford Photography
His son the prince later visits the wife (Lucretia, played by Christina Campsall) of his general Collatinus (Jacob Feldman) in her Roman home, only to end up forcing himself upon her stating her beauty is a waste if no one is there to bask in it.
The opera was only accompanied by a single pianist. Although written to be dissonant and unconnected to the singing, the pianist Natasha Fransblow used her instrument as more than just the keys in front of her. Mallets to make loud booms and rattling thunder across the stage set the mood for the imminent title of the show.
Lighting designer Wesley McKenzie brought forth a dynamic display that made the very flat set of red and white drapes hanging on either side of the stage have dimension and texture that can normally be lost with traditional stage lighting.
Costume designer Lisa Magill, did a very clever job of keeping the era out of the “historically correct” by not going with the obvious and stereotypical toga and roman guards in armour, but rather keeping it in the realm of the late 1930’s and 40’s. Earlier in the opera, women are said to be good for only their chastity and beauty. In the aftermath of Lucretia being defiled by Tarquinius, she returns to the stage dressed in black with only a select few highlights of subtle red in her clothes at her breasts and hips. The symbolism in the body of this work is subtle but very powerful. Sylvie pointed out to me that the red was a very clever use of the “Scarlet Letter” of the late 1600’s that was added to anyone who committed the act of adultery.
For something that has such a strong and relevant socio-political theme, it’s sad that it only has a three day run. As something as prevalent in the news and topical to a lot of people, a run this short isn’t enough to make enough of an impact. People shouldn’t be afraid to mount a show about touchy subject matter, especially when it is relevant to the times and needs the attention it deserves.