‘The Rape of Lucretia’ at Carriageworks

Carriageworks presents Benjamin Britten’s opera The Rape of Lucretia, the latest work of Sydney Chamber Opera directed by Kip Williams and Elizabeth Gadsby.

Fighting against Greek invasion, the Roman men leave their wives to go defend their country. In this context of war, soldiers’ wives betray their husbands, all having numerous love affairs expect one: Lucretia, Collatinus’ wife. One night, Tarquinius the Prince of Rome decides to visit Lucretia and test her chastity himself. He creeps into her bedroom and violently abuses her.

Britten’s opera establishes two narrative threads: that of a dual Chorus with an early 20th century Christian perspective, and that of the world they narrate the actions leading to the formation of the Roman Republic in 6th century BC. A third narrative thread added by the directors creates a new perspective forcing the audience to reconsider what they think about gender, power, and sex.

Kip Williams and Elizabeth Gadsby have reinterpreted this Roman tale in a contemporary way. The actors were already on stage when we took our seats. There was no décor, only a white crescent shape podium, symbol of Lucretia’s chastity later turning into a blood red crime scene. Costumes were modern and minimal, mostly grey jeans and dark tops. Few symbolic accessories helped us understand the roles of each character. A blurry line was created between the ancient and the modern worlds. The audience was constantly invited to travel back in time and question our modern society.

A delight for the ears, the singers’ powerful voices and the beautifully executed orchestral piece conducted by Jack Symonds delivered a strong message. Centuries later, the fight against power abuses is not over.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited by Articulate PR.
Image credit: Zan Wimberley.

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