Album review: Oliver Knussen, Britten: The Rape of Lucretia (Virgin Classics)


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The Independent Culture

Though expertly performed by a cast that includes Ian Bostridge and Susan Gritton as the Male and Female Chorus, and Angelika Kirchschlager as the hapless Lucretia, there's not an awful lot to love about The Rape of Lucretia.

In keeping with its brutal story, built around antediluvian assumptions about sexuality, it's not pretty: the brooding music emphasises a palette of mostly dark emotions – spite, jealousy, lust, shame – and the closest it comes to a decent aria is when the Female Chorus gets to declaim upon the role of women in “Time treads upon the hands of women”; otherwise, it's mostly ensemble work and expository recitative from the two Choruses, there to offer Christian commentary on the early Roman action. Not a great date opera.

Download: Time treads upon the hands of women