This week we get closer to completing the operas of Benjamin Britten with The Rape of Lucretia. This performance from the 1999 Edinburgh Festival features two of the most popular singers on my Mixcloud site since it began: Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson and Simon Keenlyside. Ian Bostridge is the Male Chorus, and Donald Runnicles oversees the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
I never managed to see this opera in my years in America: being classified as a “chamber opera,” it just wasn’t around, plus I was probably a bit put off by Britten’s recording with the inevitable performance of Peter Pears as well as the overtly Christian tone which closes the work.
My first encounter was Deborah Warner’s relatively traditional production at Munich’s Prinzregententheater in 2004 with Sarah Connolly and the hunky Christopher Maltman, with Bostridge and Susan Bullock as the Chorus.
Seven years later, Theater an der Wien performed it as part of it’s soon-to-be-completed traversal of the operas of Britten in a superb production by Keith Warner (any relation to Deborah?).
Warner portrayed the Chorus as an older professor of literature (Kim Begley) and a student (Angel Blue). Given their own spaces a level above the stage – a stuffy library and a sparse dorm room – the two exchanged thoughts in person and online. Shirtless Nathan Gunn proved that he could do push-ups onstage during military exercises, and Angelika Kirchschlager was a sensual, impassioned Lucretia.
Those two performances have now made it one of my favorite Britten operas (Billy Budd still leads the pack) and I look forward to my next encounter with it. Are there any other directors named Warner?