Even in Benjamin Britten’s day, his operatic treatment of Livy’s reported act of Etruscan on Roman violence raised eyebrows.

You can’t put that on stage, is probably the response I get most often whenever a new Sydney Chamber Opera production is announced. Practically every project we’ve done has been branded ‘unstageable’ before we start to stage it. Somehow, with the right range of collaborators and imaginative vision the pieces prove themselves more than worthy of being performed, and a provocation to the discourse surrounding opera’s so-called canon. Not least of which was our Australian premiere production of Benjamin Britten’s late, difficult Owen Wingravein 2013. The opera’s negative reception worldwide was an incentive to try and tackle it and finally turn it into a success. I believe we achieved that, and I immediately began to think of when, who and how to overcome Britten’s equally problematic The Rape of Lucretia.

This chamber opera – perhaps the first work worthy of inclusion in the ‘chamber opera’ genre – follows directly on the heels of Peter Grimes, a successful opera if ever there was one. But what a universe of difference between the two, separated by only a year of composition....

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