When the Roman general and politician Lucullus dies, we witness his trial by jury, who will decide whether he takes his place among the heroes in the Elysium fields, or whether he shuffles through the shadows in the darkness of Hades' halls.
Allowed to defend himself, Lucullus calls forth witnesses to his great militaristic victories, including conquering the far east for Rome, only for the jury and judge to point out the human loss in each case.
Ultimately, those characteristics in himself that he saw as irrelevant are his only graces, while the greatness he with which he had gilded his reputation is reduced only to the charge sheet which may condemn him.
The Trial of Lucullus was a radio play that was first broadcast on 12 May 1940 from a Berne studio.
After the end of the Second World War, after the atomic bomb had been dropped, the Nuremberg trials had ended , and the Korean War had begun, Brecht revisited this radio play with the aim of rewriting it as an opera. The revised text – which became The Condemnation of Lucullus, with music by Paul Dessau, had many variants to the radio play. These variants are discussed in detail in the introduction to the collection, as well as under Notes and Variants; both of these can be found in the 'From the Book' section below.