I’ve been looking forward to a production of Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of The Screw coming round and now two have turned up! It’s got a very weird plot, which I won’t go into here but you can read about on Wikipedia. First off the Cambridge University Opera Society are doing it in the cloister of Trinity College tonight and then on Saturday and Sunday. Will and I are going tonight. Then the ENO are reviving their McVicar production this Autumn.
ENO has extra info (some video and an excellent podcast) and Spotify has the EMI / Virgin Classics recording available (with Daniel Harding, Ian Bostridge, Joan Rodgers, Julian Leang, Caroline Wise, Jane Henschel, & Vivian Tierney)
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Wow, you know you’ve seen a great production when you spend the following day listening to the opera again and again. I’ve had that with Partenope at the ENO and with Rusalka and Norma at Seattle Opera. Last night I had it when Will and I went to Cambridge University Opera Society’s The Turn of The Screw. If you are in Cambridge and they have any tickets for Saturday or Sunday I’d snap them up. I’m tempted to go again on Sunday!
The standard was set high by tenor Pablo Strong and pianist Rupert Compston. The opening is so evocative and beautiful, yet also spooky that despite it’s brevity it is very important to the opera. Strong was perfect.
Despite the high bar set by Strong and Compston the rest of the cast were fantastic. Will and I had seen the female leads Joanna Songi and Fiona Mackay (playing the governess and Mrs Grose) in the CUOS production of Eugine Onegin. Songi in particular had such clear diction it was easy to follow the plot.
The two kids, Miles and Flora, were played by women (Katy Ambrose and Verity Trynka-Watson). I thought that might be a problem but the casting was clever in that the singers playing adults were markedly taller than Ambrose and Trynka-Watson. Miles’ role is so important for this opera and Ambrose’s beautiful singing is still ringing hauntingly around my head the day after.
Another pivotal role is Peter Quint, played last night by Matt Sandy. He was dressed a little bit like a long trousered Billy Bunter, and when I walked past him chatting with the other cast members in the interval he seemed an affable chap. But in character, especially at the opera’s finale, he got it right and was menacingly eerie. It makes me shiver just recalling his performance!
I wanted to add a huge shout-out to the orchestra. It was a small ensemble and most of them had demanding solo roles through the piece which they all handled wonderfully. In good Britten style the percussionist, Jonathan Pease, was rushed off his feet.
So – a fabulous production of what is now one of my favourite operas!
I forgot to add the twitter operaplot summaries to my original post. Here they are:
@idmbassoon – take a summer job in the country watching 2 nice kids? great! wait…you didn’t mention the crazy ghosts.
D. Kim – Prudish lady moves into country estate. Governess for two creepy kids. Add two sexy ghosts. One big happy family. NOT.
@primalamusica – It’s just like The Sound of Music, but with ghosts & Freudian angst instead of schmaltz & Nazis. And the kids are even creepier
@amndw2 – Kids sing creepy rhymes. Ghosts sing creepy invitations. Yeats is alluded to. Musical duel (governess vs. ghost) kills kid. Malo!