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University of Iowa News Release

March 18, 2005

photo: Elisabeth Bieber as Lucretia and Michael Krzankowski as Tarquinius

'The Rape of Lucretia' April 1-3 Is Part Of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

The University of Iowa Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater will present "The Rape of Lucretia," Benjamin Britten's chamber opera that provides contemporary and religious perspectives to an ancient story of sexual violence, with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 1 and 2, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 3, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The performances will be stage directed by Gary Race, director of the Opera Theater. Set design will be by Margaret Wenk of the UI Division of Performing Arts. The UI Chamber Orchestra will be conducted by William LaRue Jones, director of orchestral studies in the UI School of Music.

The production coincides with Sexual Assault Awareness Month and will be presented in conjunction with related events sponsored by the UI Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP):

-- At 6 p.m. Friday, April 1, before the performance of "The Rape of Lucretia," RVAP will present "RANT!" by Gail Stern in Clapp Recital Hall. This free event is designed to connect the ways society has historically used racial and ethnic epithets to dehumanize minority groups with the way words are used to objectify women. Participants will be asked to challenge the acceptance of these words, and to identify how they dehumanize and serve to justify the use of violence.

-- Throughout the production and for two days after, RVAP will sponsor the installation of "The Clothesline Project" in the Clapp Recital Hall Lobby, a display designed by UI art faculty member Monica Correia and graduate student Maria Martin of T-shirts created by victims of sexual violence. The Clapp Recital Hall Lobby will be open for viewing "The Clothesline Project" during performances of "The Rape of Lucretia," and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, April 4, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 5.

-- After the production has closed, RVAP will sponsor "A Day to End Sexual Violence Candlelight Vigil" at 6 p.m. Monday, April 4, in the Clapp Recital Hall Lobby.

Written in 1945-46, "The Rape of Lucretia" was tailored for post-World-War II England, when musical institutions lacked the resources for large-scale operatic productions. The score calls for a small cast without chorus and a small chamber orchestra. It was first performed at Glyndebourne, England, on July 12, 1946, and then toured throughout the country, providing both work for musicians and musical performances for culturally starved audiences.

A performance that provided a moral and religious perspective on dehumanizing violence was particularly welcome in post-war England.

The original story that underlies the opera takes place around 500 B.C., during a war between Rome and Greece. Tarquinius, described in the opera as "the Etruscan upstart" Prince of Rome, is infuriated that Lucretia, the wife of one of his generals, is shown to be more virtuous than other generals' wives. He rides from the soldiers' camp back to Rome and, after claiming hospitality from Lucretia, assaults her in her bedroom. Although forgiven by her husband, Lucretia stabs herself rather than face the shame of having been raped.

This violent story is framed in the opera by the 21st-century characters of the Male Chorus and Female Chorus. Representing our own times, they provide the religious perspective for the story and its tragic ending.

Race said that the production addresses both the historical and the moral aspects of the story. "As part of our rehearsal process, we have researched and explored the customs of the Etruscan/Roman culture, the moral perspectives of the mid-20th century and the work's moral and behavioral implications in our own time. All of these are reflected in our production.

"This is a demanding work," he said. "Careful attention is required by performers and audience alike. It has been our design to present this story simply, sometimes abstractly, but as directly as the subject matter requires.

"In fact, many operas have challenging content, but they are often overlooked: Madame Butterfly's suicide and Gilda's abduction and rape in 'Rigoletto' are somehow obscured in the romantic atmosphere of the lyric stage. But in this opera, Britten's music and Ronald Duncan's text encourage us to consider a more cogent context.

"The opera's opening coincides with the commencement of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Through the opera production and the related events, we hope we can relate the artwork to real issues in contemporary life. In my opinion, this is one of the most important functions of the arts in the university setting. In this case, current events are relentless reminders of the relevance of the story."

The cast will feature Elisabeth Bieber in the title role, Daniel Cook as her husband, Collatinus, and Michael Krzankowski as Tarquinian. Other roles will be shared: The Male Chorus will be sung by Christopher Thompson (Friday/Sunday) and John Stumpff (Saturday); the Female Chorus by Emily Johnson (Friday/Sunday) and Jocelyn Fekel (Saturday); the Roman general Junius by Adam Webb     (Friday/Sunday) and Kevin Blakeslee (Saturday); Lucretia's nurse Lucia by Elizabeth Duhr (Friday/Sunday) and Margaret Clair (Saturday); and the servant Lucia by Heather Youngquist (Friday/Sunday) and Wei Guan (Saturday).

Gary Race comes to the UI from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he served as director of opera for six years. He was also artistic director of Lyric Opera Cleveland for two seasons. His 30-plus years of experience include the direction of more than 100 productions for regional companies including Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati Opera, Tri-Cities Opera, Whitewater Opera, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Utah Opera. In 1994 he made his European debut directing "Madame Butterfly" for the Stadtheater Lueneburg in Germany.

As an educator Race has presented workshops on performance techniques for opera singers in colleges and universities across the country, including Carnegie-Mellon, Cornell, Duquesne, Syracuse, Miami University, Ithaca College, and the University of Maryland at College Park. He has created and directed arts education programs for many opera companies, for Gateway to the Performing Arts in Pittsburgh, and the National Symphony Orchestra, where he continues to serve as an education consultant.

A UI music alumnus, Jones joined the faculty of the School of Music in 1997 as director of the University Symphony and director of orchestral studies. He has appeared as a guest conductor with a wide array of professional, festival, collegiate and student ensembles throughout North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. Jones has conducted more than 70 all-state orchestras with additional festival/clinics in most of the 50 states and Canadian provinces.

He has served extended conducting residencies at the North Carolina School for the Arts, the University of Miami, Interlochen Academy for the Arts and Kansas City Conservatory. He also is the founding artistic director of the critically acclaimed Conductors Workshop of America. In addition to serving as guest clinician for numerous conducting seminars for professional/educational associations internationally, Jones is music director and conductor of the Oshkosh (Wis.) Symphony.

Wenk, resident designer for the UI Performing Arts Production Unit for the past 25 years, has gained a national reputation as an artist designing costumes and scenery for productions staged by the Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater, Department of Dance, University Theatres and the Iowa Summer Repertory Theatre. She is an adjunct lecturer and consultant, teaching design, rendering and scenic art for the University Theatres, Arts Outreach and as a freelance artist. She was awarded the 2001-02 Iowa Board of Regent's Staff Excellence Award.

The production of "The Rape of Lucretia" includes material of an adult nature. Potential audience members who are concerned about whether it is appropriate for them should contact 319-335-3016.

Ticket prices for "The Rape of Lucretia" are $20 ($16 for seniors, and $10 for UI students and youth). Tickets are available at the Hancher Auditorium box office.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to 319-353-2284. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website:

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail:

For more information on Sexual Assault Awareness Month and events sponsored by RVAP, visit on the World Wide Web.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072,

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