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The Rape of Lucretia The Rape of Lucretia

Composed by Benjamin Britten

Conducted by Lina González-Granados

January 20, 2023

At the Zipper Concert Hall

The crime that defined an era

Lina González-Granados, LA Opera's dynamic new Resident Conductor, leads a concert performance of Britten’s haunting chamber opera, starring the brilliant singers of the company's Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, including mezzo-soprano Sarah Saturnino as Lucretia.

In ancient Rome, Lucretia’s husband is away, assigned to a military post outside the city. When the Prince of Rome knocks at her door, she’s honor-bound to welcome him into her home, unaware that her unexpected guest is driven by a truly despicable impulse. The brutal assault will rattle the foundations of the kingdom and incite the overthrow of a dynasty.



Lina González-Granados
Sarah Saturnino
Ryan Wolfe
Male Chorus
Anthony León
Female Chorus
Alaysha Fox
Alan Williams
Madeleine Lyon
Cedric Berry

Read the synopsis

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Act One
The Male and Female Chorus describe the historical background to the story and reveal their view of events to be that of a later Christian era. The action is set in and around Rome immediately before the end of the reign of the Etruscan king Tarquinius Superbus in 510 BC. At a military camp outside the city, his son, the prince Tarquinius Sextus, is drinking with two generals, Collatinus and Junius. They discuss an earlier, unfortunate bet, in which the constancy of various Roman wives was tried and found wanting. Of the married men (the unmarried Tarquinius goes to brothels) only Collatinus can boast a wife, Lucretia, who was discovered sleeping alone in her husband’s absence. Urged on by the malicious Junius, Tarquinius decides to test Lucretia by attempting her virtue himself, and he rides off to Rome. There his arrival at her house produces consternation, but hospitality forces Lucretia to offer him a room for the night, despite her misgivings and those of her servants. 

Act Two
Tarquinius's purpose, however, is made clear when he wakes her and forces himself upon her before leaving her house. The following morning her late appearance in a distressed, broken state is only slowly understood by her nurse Bianca and maid Lucia, and her husband is sent for. Collatinus arrives with Junius to hear the news. Despite her husband’s understanding of Lucretia's shame, it is too painful for her to bear, and she stabs herself. Her death provides the impetus for the Romans to incite rebellion and throw out the Tarquins. The Male and Female Chorus attempt to come to terms with these events in a Christian context.

Repertoire Note 
It was a combination of economic realities and aesthetic preferences that encouraged Britten to develop the concept of chamber opera, employing a small cast without chorus and an orchestra of just 13 players. His first work in the new medium was The Rape of Lucretia, first performed just over a year after Peter Grimes, in 1946. There is, however, no loss of color and atmosphere—indeed the pared-down textures produced an intensification of Britten’s operatic vision which was to serve him further in Albert Herring and The Turn of the Screw. 

With the roles of the Male and Female Chorus, who comment on the action “out of time” (as in Greek tragedy) and the use of solo piano accompaniment to accompany recitative passages, Lucretia achieves a certain “classical” poise and detachment. However, Lucretia and Tarquinius are flesh-and-blood characters driven by real human emotions and desires (Lucretia’s music is surely some of Britten’s most sheerly beautiful), and the resulting amalgam is an opera of great musico-dramatic power and expressive richness. Reproduced by kind permission of the Britten-Pears Library. 

This concert takes place at the Colburn School's Zipper Hall (200 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012)

Estimated running time: two hours, and 15 minutes, including one intermission

Sung in English, with projected subtitles.

LA Opera's Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program generously underwritten by
Colburn Foundation
Eugene and Marilyn Stein

Special support for young artist stipends graciously provided by
The Lenore and Richard Wayne Young Artist Fellowship

Additional support provided by
LA Opera's Young Artist Circle

Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program created with funding from the
Flora L. Thornton Foundation


Artwork for The Rape of Lucretia
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