What if Lucretia is raped by a woman?

What if Lucretia is raped by a woman?


norman lebrecht

June 19, 2018

In Tasmania, they have reversed the roles in Benjamin Britten’s chamber opera … and nobody seems happy.

Lots of walkouts, says the local Guardian reporter.

This gender-swap doesn’t sit comfortably with me, says Limelight magazine’s critic.

Photo © Zan Wimberley

But when was Lucretia ever comfortable to experience?


  • John Rook says:

    If the original still provokes healthy debate, why change it? You will only lessen its impact.

  • Nik says:

    Grauniad: “In a week of violence against women headlines, I’m unsettled about Britten’s opera”
    What is a women headline, and who is being violent against them?

    • Melburnian says:

      There was a rape and murder in a public park in a posh neighbourhood this past week in Melbourne. Such occurrences are quite rare here, so the case has rightly attracted a lot of attention in the national media.

    • Jonathan Grieves-Smith says:

      Read the Australian headlines

      • Nik says:

        I still don’t understand why anyone would be violent against a headline.

        • Alex Davies says:

          It is perfectly clear what it means. It means headlines concerning violence perpetrated towards women. While the author’s style is perhaps not the most pedantic, nor the most felicitous, it is nonetheless admirably clear in its meaning. What I am wondering is why it is so important to you to take apart this particular piece of journalism. One could be forgiven for thinking that you dislike discussion of violence towards women and wish to make light of it.

    • Bruce says:

      So clever, Nik. Making light of violence against women for the sake of showing off your understanding of grammar. So very clever.

      • Phillip says:

        So brave, Bruce. Denigrating your fellow man and throwing him under the bus for the sake of pathetically trying to supplicate and curry favor with your female overlords. So very courageous. Hopefully one day your [redacted] will drop and you’ll grow a spine and see the light. I’m not hopeful, though.

        • Alex Davies says:

          No, Bruce is one of the good guys here. Nik is just shamelessly trolling a story about violence towards women, presumably because he (at least I am assuming that Nik is male) has some problem with the issue of violence towards women being discussed.

          Criticising men who have a problem with highlighting the problem of violence against women is not denigrating them. Men like Bruce who have the decency to speak out about this issue are not pathetic, supplicating, currying favour, or spineless; it’s just having basic human decency. Female overlords? Given that the overwhelming majority of instances of sexual violence are committed by men against women, it’s hard to see how that makes women overlords.

          What I do wonder about are those men whose egos are seemingly so fragile that they can’t bear to allow other men’s behaviour (and perhaps also their own) to be subjected to scrutiny and criticism. Being a misogynist doesn’t make anybody more of a man: quite the opposite, in fact.

          • Bruce says:

            It’s OK, Alex. Phillip has decided to be my enemy. It happens. It’s nice of you to try to convince him I’m not an asshole/ idiot/ whatever… but it’s not going to work. It’s fine.

          • Phillip says:

            I admit I’ve been rather harsh, Bruce- apologies are in order. I don’t consider you an enemy- I didn’t intend to attack you personally and much of the time I’m being rather facetious. It’s just that I’m frustrated by the widespread vilification of men and the persistent ignoring of men’s issues that I see in the world- oftentimes on this blog.

  • Rob says:

    What if she was raped by a hippo?

  • RW2013 says:

    The production that just finished in Köln intimates that Lucretia actually enjoyed her rape.

  • Dennis says:

    Absurdities such as this are why people are turned off by modern opera productions. In place of the work of art itself – and in lieu of letting the artwork speak for itself – inane agenda-driven producers feel the need to foist their ideology to the forefront and twist the artwork to suit their own agenda. The opera merely becomes a backdrop for the producer’s virtue-signalling display of his own ideology.

  • anon says:

    I don’t know the history of this opera, or this opera for that matter, maybe someone can enlighten me: is Britten sympathetic to Lucretia’s rape?

    I’m just surprised that Britten, a gay composer who is very sympathetic to the suffering of the boys and young men in his operas (and boy oh boy do his young men characters suffer, mainly, the die, although none gets raped) would write an opera in which a woman is raped.

    I thought gay men were more in tuned with the oppression of women.

    I am not being facetious. I’m sure surprised about Britten.

    • Dennis says:

      Just because he wrote an opera about it doesn’t mean he is “sympathetic” to Lucretia’s rape.

      Given the importance of her rape and subsequent suicide in leading to the downfall of the ancient Roman monarchy of the Tarquin kings and the transition to the Roman Republic, it is a key event in history, and it has been a much depicted in Western art, literature, and music for two millennia.

      It is abominable to sully with fadish po-mo productions a work of art depicting this signal event in Western history.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    “I’m just surprised that Britten . . . would write an opera in which a woman is raped”

    Rape happens, so perhaps it’s in the hopes of making people be sensitive to rape and do something about it – recognize it for the crime that it is.

    Why’s there a rape in Shostakovich’s “Lady Macbeth”? Why’s there ever rape?

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    Opera should be retitled “The Sexual Assault of Lucretia.”

    Less triggering than the blunt monosyllable.

  • Karen Fodor says:

    ==. . . that reminds me of a long joke David Allen told on his tv show.

    OK, I’ll bite Barry. Please can you give us a summary ?

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Well first, for people who don’t know the Dave Allen show, he came from a time and place where one could both drink and smoke on the set, if they were a big enough star. Many of his jokes would not be considered funny today by those who are of the more ‘p.c’. persuasion, shall we say. Our joke is rather predictable, but I was several decades younger when I heard it.

    A nun is telling her story to a father – or someone else – about there trials and tribulations during the war (WWII). She’s talking about how an enemy soldier (German?) would break in and rape all the nuns, except for Sister so-and-so. Then another soldier would force his way in and rape all the nuns, except (again) for Sister so-and-so. Then she told the same sort of tale a third time (with Sister so-and-so being the exception).

    Finally, the person who’s listening to this (a father in the confessional booth? – I can’t remember) stops her and says, “wait a minute, why is that only Sister so-and-so never gets raped?”

    “Sister so-and-so doesn’t go that sort of thing”

    It’s Dave Allen folks. Don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Go to the one minute point.