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July 2014
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Haymarket Opera, Monarchy, a Brutal Crime

Lucretia et Tarquinius, by Johann Peter Pichler, Austrian 1792

Lucretia et Tarquinius, by Johann Peter Pichler, Austrian 1792

Tuesday at 5:45 pm

Haymarket Opera presents Handel’s La Lucrezia, a cantata on a notorious crime.

He was a prince. She was the governor’s wife. He went to stay at her house. What happened next toppled a monarchy and inspired over two thousand years of stories, art, and music.

The king’s son Sextus Tarquinius waited until all were asleep before creeping into the bedchamber of the virtuous Lucretia. She refused him. The prince pledged to kill her and a male slave – leaving their bodies entangled – unless she yielded.

Lucretia submitted to the prince. The next day, she told her father and her husband about her dishonor, begging to be avenged. Then she stabbed herself.

Lucretia’s martyrdom outraged the citizens of Rome. Her kinsmen paraded her body throughout the forum, inciting rebellion and the ouster of the Etruscan king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. According to legend, Lucretia’s death led to the founding of the Roman Republic.

The assault of Lucretia is the subject of dozens of works, including a poem by Shakespeare, paintings, and a cantata by George Frideric Handel (conceived as a cantata in order to skirt a papal decree forbidding opera). Opera or cantata, La Lucrezia is all drama. WFMT presents a live performance of Handel’s La Lucrezia on Tuesday at 5:45 pm.


Suicide of Lucretia by Raphael, Rome 1508-1512


 About the Haymarket Opera Company

The Haymarket Opera Company specializes in operas from the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment – two hundred years, from 1600 to the late 18th century masterworks of Mozart. Each production is staged intimately and guided by close attention to details of the libretti and scores. HOC performers are trained in historically informed practices of sound production, diction, and ornamentation. They are also experienced actors who are schooled in baroque gesture and dance.

The Haymarket Opera Company uses a chamber orchestra of period instruments played by top experts in the field. Our instrumentalists are not only specialists on their individual instruments, they are historians who recreate the sounds 17th and 18th century composers would have heard as they wrote. Gut strings, valveless trumpets, and woodwinds with fewer keys lend a special timbre to the sound of the instruments and allow the music to breathe in a unique way.


The Rape of Lucretia, Tintoretto c. 1580


The Tragedy of Lucretia by Botticelli (1496-1504)

mid-2nd century AD

mid-2nd century AD









The story of Lucretia and Sextus Tarquinis is 2,500 years old. The earliest surviving accounts date from 500 years after the crime took place. So viral was the tale, however, so enmeshed was it in Roman zeitgeist, historians struggle to separate the legend from the facts. Historians confirm the fall of the Etruscan monarchy and generally agree on the founding of the Roman Republic in 509 BC. Historical record also shows one of the two, first-elected consuls to be Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus, the husband of Lucretia.

On Tuesday at 5:45 pm, WFMT brings you a live broadcast from St. James Cathedral. This week, Rush Hour concerts presents Handel’s cantata La Lucretia.

View more works on the story of Lucretia:

  • Sonia Csaszar

    What was the name of the singer? She had a lovely voice and a very convincing style. Unfortunately, something must have been wrong with the microphones because while the phrasing on the obligato was always there, the sound of the cello was too weak, not the usual Craig’s (i was listening on my Bose System at home.) Where was the harpsichordist from?

    But all in all, a great new adventure for Haymarket: Two operas a year are not enough. Craig, please, start offering oratorios and church cantatas by less known/performed composers. They should be easier to produce, more portable, and the company stays more in contact with its adoring public while preparing the main two operas. Just imagine what that work continuity would do to strengthen Haymarket!

    Thank you very much,

    Sonia Csaszar

    • Craig Trompeter

      Thanks, Sonia! The mezzo was Kindra Scharich and the harpsichordist was Philippe Leroy. Sorry the microphones didn’t capture the sound you were looking for! Look for new developments in the 2015/16 season…

  • Mary Goetsch

    I think the dog is singing on the pitch of A, the standard 440. It would be more dazzling if the canine were to begin spontaneously, without the prompting.