The Rape of Lucretia - Synopsis
The Rape of Lucretia
Ronald Duncan after André Obey
The Male Chorus and the Female Chorus tell the story of how the Etruscan upstart Tarquinius Superbus has become the ruler of Rome by using intrigue and murder to acquire power. His son, Prince Tarquinius Sextus, is the commander of a Roman army which is at war with the Greeks.
In the army's camp, two Roman commanders, Collatinus and Junius, are drinking with Prince Tarquinius and discussing the outcome of a bet they had the night before. In order to see how faithful their wives were in their absence, they and several other commanders had returned to Rome unannounced, but the only one who was at home, uncompromised, was Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus. The general praise lavished on Lucretia for her chastity makes Junius, who is very ambitious, jealous of Collatinus' good fortune. He keeps on insisting to Tarquinius that women can never be faithful until the prince decides to prove Lucretia chaste and sets off for Rome.
The Male Chorus describes Tarquinius' ride through the night.
Lucretia is sitting at home in the company of her two servants Bianca and Lucia. Tarquinius knocks at the door and asks Lucretia to give him lodging for the night. As the rules of etiquette require of her, Lucretia complies with his request and offers him her hospitality.
The Female and Male Chorus tell about the violent rule of the much-hated Etruscan kings in Rome. There is rebellion in the air.
In the night, Tarquinius wakens Lucretia from sleep and tries to seduce her. When she resists him, he rapes her and then returns to the camp.
The Female and Male Chorus offer a Christian commentary on "virtue assailed by sin".
Next morning Bianca and Lucia are arranging flowers. Lucretia, in distress, orders Lucia to send for Collatinus, but Collatinus, alerted by Junius to Tarquinius' departure for Rome, anticipates the messenger. When he arrives, accompanied by Junius, Lucretia tells all who are present what happened during the night. Although Collatinus exonerates her from all blame, Lucretia kills herself. This is the moment Junius has been waiting for. He puts Lucretia's corpse on public display to incite the people to rebel against the Etruscans in order to seize power himself.
The Female and Male Chorus search for a meaning to the tragedy.
© Bavarian State Opera