Wolf Trap Opera’s performance of The Rape of Lucretia Friday night at the Barns was what art aspires to be, thought provoking by forcing us to confront ourselves. In that regard, it achieved a goal or at least a prediction set forth by Kim Witman, WTO’s director, in her pre-performance talk. By weaving together elements of personal tragedy with sexual violence, war, politics, lust for power, evil, and religion, the story draws us in or perhaps more accurately forces us in. I felt like I found myself locked in a roller coaster headed for the dark tunnel where the crash would occur and I could not get out. Evil was headed my way and it could not be avoided. The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach was my connection to my fellow humans in the audience, the world, and mankind from the beginning of our time. Are we left to avoid, hide, only to be trapped by evil and plead for God’s protection and deliverance from its destruction, when love cannot save us? And when the worst has happened and our dignity has been torn from us, can we go on? How? Why?
The impact of Benjamin Britten and Ronald Duncan’s opera is such that commenting on the elements of the production somehow seem irrelevant, unimportant. And perhaps that fact is praise enough for the performers, musicians, and staff who were responsible for this elegant production, where the telling of the story, the singing, the music, and the delivery worked in unison. Maybe I will comment more, another time, when I have sufficiently recovered.