You are here
Home > Arts > PREVIEW: <em>The Rape of Lucretia</em> (An Opera Theatre)

PREVIEW: The Rape of Lucretia (An Opera Theatre)

Lucretia (mezzo-soprano Kara Morgan) holds a laurel wreath – symbolizing honor in ancient Roman society – in An Opera Theatre’s production of The Rape of Lucretia, which opens this evening at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis, MN. Photo courtesy of An Opera Theatre.

Twin Cities opera fans have a lot of choices in Minneapolis this weekend. At Plymouth Congregational Church, it’s the closing weekend of GSVLOC’s excellent production of Ruddigore. At the Museum of Russian Art, Skylark Opera Theatre is doing a paired down, intimate new version of Eugene Onegin. And over at the Southern Theatre, An Opera Theatre (AOT) is opening its own, pandemic-delayed production of Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia.

Britten’s Rape of Lucretia premiered at the Glyndebourne Festival in England in 1946 – one of the first notable opera milestones following the Second World War. Of intimate scope and modest forces, this exploration of a key event in early Roman history has been acclaimed as social commentary, psychodrama, gripping theatre, and more. Unusually, the opera had a Broadway run, playing at the Ziegfeld Theatre in 1948-1949, in a production directed by Agnes de Mille (of American Ballet Theatre and innumerable Broadway musicals’ fame).

A show poster for AOT’s production of The Rape of Lucretia, designed by J Spencer Jr.

As the title might suggest, a deeply disturbing event is at the heart of The Rape of Lucretia: Sextus Tarquinius – the son of the Etruscan king ruling Rome – sexually assaults the noblewoman Lucretia, who recounts the event to her husband and then kills herself. The historical event is cited as the inspiration for the Roman citizens throwing off Etruscan rule, establishing the Roman republic. That perspective is in the background, however, for Britten’s opera and AOT’s production, which delve deeply into the disturbing nature of the content.

“This opera is uncomfortable,” said AOT producer Kelly Turpin. “And it will remain uncomfortable because so many elements of it are so relatable. It should leave you going, ‘No! That’s not how it should be.’ Exactly! It shouldn’t, so how can we make sure stories like this stop happening?”

Dancers Andy Lupinek and Hannah Benditt rehearse for The Rape of Lucretia. Photo courtesy of An Opera Theatre.

In not shying away from the fundamentally troubling material, AOT has gone a further step in enlisting several community partners to serve as resources and on-site therapists: Advocates for Human Rights, Violence Free MN, Southern Valley Alliance, and Women’s Advocates. There will also be post-performance roundtable discussions.

In another novel step, tickets to The Rape of Lucretia are available on a pay-as-able basis, starting at $0.

The An Opera Theatre production of The Rape of Lucretia plays through April 4 at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis, MN.

Amy Donahue