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REVIEW: The Rape of Lucretia, Glyndebourne Opera Festival

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Manicured lawns, black tie, stunning gardens, country houses, Champagne picnics – a picture of perfection in England’s green and pleasant land, which comes together in exquisite fashion at Glyndebourne opera festival. In world-class opera, a juggernaut: the festival takes over the grounds of the Christie family home every summer, bringing opera lovers to the sleepy village of Lewes, East Sussex in their droves.

Sunday 5th July brought the opening night of The Rape of Lucretia, Shakespeare’s powerfully dark, difficult tale of lovers lusted after and ultimately lost.

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Directed by Fiona Shaw (you might know her as Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter series), the opera is almost play-like in its composition, keeping the audience enraptured with visceral deliveries from the Chorus and stunning staging.

Mounds of dirt provide cover for the singers during trickier scenes of sexual violence, adding a textural element to the destructive storyline, symbolic of all the smut and sadness. It hides corpses beneath, is kicked into the air and dug into, but at other times covered by a huge sheet which is folded, gathered, hung up and drawn back to add another dimension of depth and discovery.

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Subtle lighting by Paul Anderson draws attention to simple but visually stunning props, the final scene’s symbolic crucifix lodged in the mind long after the show ends. In a week where the ‘gang-bang sensationalism‘ of the Royal Opera’s portrayal of Guillaume Tell brought heckling and gasps to the auditorium, the similarly heart-rending, Draconian subject matter (all women are whores, and rape is a tool with which the patriarchy can ‘prove women chaste’) is treated with palpable respect and subtlety.

Shaw grapples with exhausting moral dilemmas with grace and care, her singers nothing short of fantastic. Duncan Rock’s rippling physique makes the perfect Tarquinius, but an underlying vulnerability will have you second-guessing your first impressions. Christine Rice’s raw portrayal of conflicted Lucretia (and she is conflicted, we feel) will raise questions you never thought you’d ask. A super-smart treatment of an historically tough production, this feels like opera proper – with prices to match, the best seats fetching up to £180 each.

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Happily, the festival and its founders are determined to make opera accessible to all, offering cheaper standing places for every performance and the unique ‘<30′ initiative, in which 16-29 year-olds can snap up tickets on special dates for the princely sum of £30. It’s worth noting that cinema screenings of a handful of productions take place too. If you’ve never experienced the opera, we highly recommend treating yourself at this fabulous event – an excellent excuse to dress up, quaff Champagne and spend a day drinking in beautifully British culture.

Amy @ FashionBite xx

The Rape of Lucretia runs until 19th August 2015.

£30 for Under 30s runs Tuesday 4th August(The Rape of Lucretia) and Tuesday 25 August (Saul).

How to book: just visit Glyndebourne’s registration page, fill in the form, enter the promo code 12252tick the ‘Glyndebourne under 30s’ box and then hit ‘register’. Then click the green ‘Book tickets’ button.

Photos: Richard Hubert Smith / BBC.co.ukSign-Up To FashionBite’s Weekly News

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