Culture Corner: A guide to cultural organizations of Tacoma Tacoma Opera presents “The Rape of Lucretia” by Benjamin Britten

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Sunday, Feb. 3, 2 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 10, 2 p.m.
Theater on the Square, 901 Broadway Ave., Tacoma

For the last several seasons, Tacoma Opera has been mostly presenting mainstream popular operas and operettas. Some have been comic; some have been serious and some have been deeply tragic. But the upcoming production of “The Rape of Lucretia” is a very different kind of opera. It’s a serious and tragic chamber opera set in ancient Roman times, based on a true story that is not only timeless, but is even more timely and current today than when it originally took place in ancient Roman times or when Britten presented his version of the story in 1946.

The story of “The Rape of Lucretia” is a serious one about sexual abuse and the tragic emotional impact it has on the women that suffer from this dreadful offense. Sexual abuse has been unfortunately part of our culture since the beginning of time, but we are even more aware of it today because of the #MeToo movement and all of the sexual harassment allegations that have recently been brought forth by women against men in our society. However, one of the positive aspects about our situation today is that we are hopefully beginning to address the situation and are empowering women to fight back.

This is a somber opera about terrible male hubris and the great suffering it causes for an innocent woman, but Britten tells the story with such compassion and understanding for the characters that the audience is drawn into the story in a way that moves one to the core of one’s being. The “Rape of Lucretia” is not at all graphic or gory by today’s Hollywood standards, but rather, it is a thought provoking, psychological retelling of a tragic story that delves into the characters’ minds, motives and emotions in an effort to understand why these terrible things occur. 

First performed at Glyndbourne in England on July 12, 1946, “The Rape of Lucretia” is the first chamber opera that Britten wrote during his distinguished career.

According to Roman tradition, Lucretia, who died around 510 BC, was a noblewoman in ancient Rome whose rape by Sextus Tarquinius, an Etruscan king’s son, was the cause of a rebellion that overthrew the Roman monarchy and led to the transition of Roman government from a kingdom to a republic.

Britten takes this ancient Roman tale and transforms it into a dramatic work of misguided hubris and great human suffering, narrated by two compassionate storytellers, male and female. The work is one of Britten’s most intimate and moving works and is a masterpiece of the chamber opera genre.

Ticket: $26-$56

Info: www.tacomaopera.com or call (253) 591-5894

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