UWOpera brings Britten to the stage

Violence against women is not a new story. In fact, English composer, conductor and pianist Benjamin Britten composed his statement against the issue in an opera based on an ancient Roman tale.

UWOpera will stage Britten’s Rape of Lucretia as part of Western’s Benjamin Britten Festival. Performances will be held at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 22-23, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24, in the Paul Davenport Theatre, Talbot College. Tickets are $25/$15 in advance from the Grand Theatre box office at 519-672-8800 or cash at the door.

The Rape of Lucretia opens in an army camp with swaggering soldiers; it ends leaving many modern questions in the minds of listeners.

The music is beautiful, but the message is tragic. “While you will experience musically and emotionally beautiful moments, this is not a seduction but a brutal physical assault, just as the title and text suggest,” wrote D. Robert Milne in his program notes.

Britten managed to convey the aftereffects of the assault, through Lucretia’s feelings of isolation and violation, as well as the political exploitation used to justify a rebellion.

“Do we have the capacity or inclination to be more tolerant, more progressive? Britten asks the question, but only we can answer it,” Milne continued.

To bring home the point that little has changed in more than 2,000 years, Theodore Baerg, director of the opera program in the Don Wright Faculty of Music, along with the opera cast, Western researchers and a representative from Women’s Community House will hold a public forum at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 11 at Wolf Performance Hall.

Set up by the power of the music, Baerg will add context to the plot and performance. Barbara MacQuarrie will present some of her findings on issues from the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children at Western. She will be joined by Shelley Yeo from the Women’s Community House who will speak about local resources.

A public question and answer period will follow.

Music has the ability to intensify emotion and make connections. This free forum and the three performances of the opera, offer the community a chance to explore this timely topic in a multi-faceted and thought-provoking way.