“Now I see why you insisted on making them Christian,” Benjamin Britten told his librettist Ronald Duncan, who suggested a final Christian interpretation by the Choruses in The Rape of Lucretia, so that musically the piece would not end with Lucretia’s death. “It gives them a definite point of view from which they can objectify the pagan tragedy.”

Britten’s eight-hand chamber opera The Rape of Lucretia, written a year after the success of his 1945 hit Peter Grimes, retells the Lucretia myth with the work framed and narrated by one male and one female ‘Chorus’, who describe the action in the style of a Greek chorus, bring a 20th-century Christian perspective – and redemptive ending – to the story.

rape of lucretia, sydney chamber opera Nathan Lay, Jessica O’Donoghue, Andrew Goodwin in Sydney Chamber Opera’s The Rape of Lucretia. Photos © Zan Wimberley.

In director Kip Williams’ production for Sydney Chamber Opera (a co-production with Victorian Opera), however, an additional level of framing is added, creating a contemporary telling of the story by stripping back the trappings of the theatre to draw attention to ideas of gender, performance and costume.

David Fleischer’s set is...