Music: Benjamin Britten
Libretto: Myfanwy Piper
Director: Alessandro Talevi
Conductor: Leo McFall
The Turn of the Screw returns to Opera North’s repertoire after the production was premiered in 2010. Adapted from Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, the opera is set to Britten’s musical composition and Piper’s libretto. James’ horror novella, written at the end of the 19th Century, tells the story of a governess who arrives at a country house to look after a man’s niece and nephew, only for her to claim that the house and its grounds is eerily haunted.
The opera begins with a prologue where the narrator (Nicholas Watts) divulges that The Governess (Sarah Tynan) is left to take full responsibility of the two children Flora (Jennifer Clark) and Miles (Tim Gasiorek), and that their guardian and uncle is not to be contacted under any circumstances. A vignette approach is taken with the plot thickening with eventful happenings, supported by Britten’s ingenious musical composition. Britten’s varied score creates the ambiguity, the imagination, the intrigue and the mystery amid the dark and haunted ambience and encounters.
Madeleine Boyd’s staging compliments the production along with Matthew Haskins’ obscure lighting. There is the clever use of mirror like reflective visuals with the use of windows and doors to refer to the “ghosts” of Peter Quint (Watts) and Miss Jessel (Eleanor Dennis). The space on the stage is well used and the set creates a playful atmosphere which intertwines simultaneously with the haunting and eerie presence of its transitive and intransitive elements.
Under the musical direction of Leo McFall, Tynan (who is making her Opera North debut) dramatically and emotively portrays the role of The Governess along with Heather Shipp as Mrs Grose. Under the ladies’ charges both Clark (Flora) and Gasiorek (Miles) portray the children well. Watts and Dennis ensure both the roles of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel are influential throughout and eerily remind one and all of untold past and connections.
Like many stories there is drama and The Turn of the Screw is no exception, particularly with the series of events and ultimately the finale. The opera offers the opportunity to marvel Britten’s musical ingenuity and James’ ghostly and gothic ambiguity of its told and untold stories. Opera North, under the direction of Alessandro Talevi, puts on a well done production of The Turning of the Screw, an opera with a ghostly twist.
Runs at Leeds Grand on various dates until 27th February 2020