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7.5.13

Briefly Noted: 'Rape of Lucretia'

available at Amazon
Britten, The Rape of Lucretia, I. Bostridge, S. Gritton, A. Kirchschlager, Aldeburgh Festival, O. Knussen

(released on February 5, 2013)
Virgin 50999 60267221 | 105'33"
On November 22nd this year -- St. Cecilia's Day -- Benjamin Britten would have celebrated his 100th birthday. Composer anniversaries are mostly for powering the engines of publicity, but if good performances and recordings come our way in anniversary years, who are we to complain? Put in that category the chance to hear this recording of the two performances of Britten's Rape of Lucretia as they were performed at the Aldeburgh Festival in June 2011. For all of this chamber opera's weaknesses, mostly to do with the bizarre Christian frame narrative that wraps the libretto, the score has great appeal, shown in two stagings reviewed in 2007, at Lorin Maazel's Castleton Festival and at Peabody Chamber Opera. There were recordings of the work already available, all of them with advantages: the DVD from English National Opera, Britten's own version on EMI with Janet Baker in the title role (also featured in Britten's Phaedra), and the version led by Richard Hickox for Chandos. The highlight here is the narration of tenor Ian Bostridge as the moralizing Male Chorus, whose light, floating tone and pure intonation make just the right type of voice for much of Britten's writing. Add to that the warm-voiced Susan Gritton as the Female Chorus, and the plummy sound of Angelika Kirchschlager's Lucretia. The other roles are taken by less noteworthy voices, although whether the microphone placement played a part in the results is unclear. Oliver Knussen leads a detailed and subtle performance from the crack forces of the Aldeburgh Festival, with the usual caveats about live recording.

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