Sunday, June 14, 2009

More Thoughts About Lucretia

More details and thoughts about Rape of Lucretia have popped into my head. One I wrote as a comment/reply in the original post. I forgot to mention that there were a few scenes where the Female Chorus' actions mirrored those of the women. She was there on stage, singing about what they were doing, doing it right behind and next to them. They didn't see her of course. It was nice, very graceful, kind of showed that the F.C. is telling her own version of the story and the characters will therefore do what she says. Like she is in control by virtue of being the narrator? But at the same time the M&F Chorus were not in control, because they tried to prevent the rape but couldn't. This is all popping into my head as I type it so I haven't had a chance to really analyze it.

Another observation that should have been blazingly obvious at the time but wasn't until I was rethinking it today was, that rape scene - he's wearing a harness. He ties her up with the bridle. He rapes her from behind as if he's riding a horse... remember the whole whores/horse thing... I don't know why I didn't realize it at the time. Wait yes I do - I was too upset. Now it seems so obvious. And I'm still upset - I actually turned my head and averted my eyes as I wrote these last few lines.

I think this is one reason (besides sheer laziness) I don't like to do a lot of research before seeing an opera that I've never seen before. I have no preconceived notions about what anything is supposed to symbolize here - I'm going purely on that collegiate and graduate school training of how to analyze writing, poetry and other forms of art. And it's fun. I'm having these "aha!" moments as I think back over the performance. I imagine that some of the scenes are described in the libretto in detail while others are the director's creations. Doesn't matter to me - I mentioned in my last post that at least one other audience member questioned if the production was in line with what Britten intended. Perhaps this is naive of me, but... does that really matter? Once you write something, people are going to put their own spin on it, their own interpretation, based on their own experiences. You lose control. It applies to something as innocuous as this blog, or as heavily studied as the Bible. So really, is it valid to criticize something like an opera production by asking if it's what the composer had in mind? Unless the composer left explicit instructions, or is still alive, there's really no way to know. And surely any artist, writer or composer is aware that an audience may not know their intentions. And in this case I suppose the "audience" is the director. So how would a composer/author/artist feel about the fact that people are studying his or her work after they've been long gone. "Wait! That's not what I meant!" or, "Wow! That's not what I mean, but I like it!" or, "STOP!!!!!" To me, it doesn't matter. You put something out there, it's not yours anymore.

So this post has gone off on a tangent I didn't expect! Ah the joys of trains of thought.

I am still recovering from the performance. I'm still upset about the rape scene. I'm still blown away by the rape scene and all the rest of it. I'm upset, blown away and filled, as Banawoman said in her comment on the review post, with moments of joy about seeing it and experiencing the beauty of the performance. And of course seeing Nathan Gunn in it - vastly different from Papageno, Figaro, Zurga and the others he's made so popular... or have they made him popular?

Now I'm lapsing into post-performance blues. I've been waiting for this performance for almost a year. Banawoman and I planned to meet this weekend about 5 or 6 months ago, possibly more. The weekend was everything I thought it would be and more. So now what? It's time to plan the next few adventures. Who's in?


examsdiva said...

I enjoyed reading your review of the opera. As I said before, it's haunting, and will stay with you for a while. Britten did not provide any easy answers in this opera, and makes you think about the nature of good and evil, (as he did in Peter Grimes and Billy Budd).
Here's another thought. in the opera, Tarquinius has several chances to turn back, yet he never does so. Even after he rapes Lucretia and emerges from behind the bed to the Chorus' line "Tarquinius is drowned", he still returns to the bed and Lucretia. Of course, stage craft dictates that the prop has to be removed, but I think that you are right and that he continued to rape her, because he can't stop himself. I really found this kind of casual, self-involved evil quite chilling.
At the end of the performance that I saw, when the singers were taking their bows, there was a bit of hesitation when Nathan came out, as if the audience was appalled by his actions, even though he was no longer in character. Now, that's a great performance!

Susan said...

I don't think he could turn back. I think I recall the Male Chorus singing several times for him to turn back. The MC still has hope but Tarq appeared to already be lost to reason (drowning) when he called for his horse. So when they sang that he is drowned, I wasn't thinking that he has ruined himself or the Etruscan rule, as if he's so evil that he can never be good again. I thought he was drowned or drowning in his own lust - so far gone that it didn't matter that she said no (hence the rape). So dragging her back to his room is this selfish act of evil, like, "I want this and I don't care about anything else." Thankfully the director didn't choose to show us that directly. I'm still disturbed by the parts of the rape we could see.

Susan said...

Another thing I remembered (after seeing the photos on the Opera Philly website) is that Lucretia comes out of her room holding the bridle, singing, "I'm a whore, I'm a whore..." and someone else just pointed out to me that perhaps one of the reasons she feels that way is because when Tarq first kissed her, she thought it was Collatinus so she responded. Perhaps that fueled Tarq's insistence that she's lustful?