In August 2014, the Russian premiere of the new stage production of Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw will take place at the Kolobov Novaya Opera theatre in Moscow.
«THE TURN OF THE SCREW» OPERA
Musical theatre is familiar to Britten. In 1941, Britten produced his first music drama, Paul Bunyan, an operetta reminiscent of the ’Broadway musical’ style of the period. After the war, Britten paid tribute to high drama, completing his great opera Peter Grimes.By finishing The Turn of the Screw in 1954, Britten moved from large scale early operas with a social focus (Peter Grimes, Gloriana and Billy Budd) to deeper analysis of human nature. This libretto is based on the psychological novel of the same name by the American writer, Henry James.
The Turn of The Screw is regarded as a classic example of authorial ambiguity. The dramatic structure of the opera is built around the reading aloud of a manuscript written by a young governess, charged with taking care of two orphaned children Miles and Flora, whose legal guardian was a wealthy London dandy. The previous governess, Miss Jessel and her lover, Peter Quint died shortly before the new governess’ arrival. The housekeeper, Mrs. Grose exposes Quint’s past to the new governess, implying that he abused Miles. Miles is expelled from school for reasons the head teacher doesn’t want to talk about. The governess is haunted by ghosts of Miss Jessel and Peter Quint. Are the ghosts real? Are they a threat to the children? Or do the ghosts mirror desires that the governess does her best to suppress?
These questions are revisited in Britten’s tautly-constructed chamber opera in two acts. Britten introduces celesta and percussion parts to the traditional chamber opera sound.
OLIVER MEARS’ PRODUCTION
In 2012 Oliver Mears, a theatre director from England, found a new perspective on The Turn of The Screw with Northern Ireland Opera. Mears’ production follows minimalistic and expressive music lines. The stage artist, Anne-Marie Woods constructed a special stage space, where symmetrical geometric forms and blank cold colours become spectacular theatrical decorations. This staging of The Turn of The Screw was praised both by avid theatre-goers and professional critics alike. The stage play toured around Ireland and was shown at the Buxton Festival. At the end of this coming August, Russian theatre lovers will also be able to enjoy Mears’ version of the opera — the classical English stage production will be shown at the Moscow Novaya Opera Theatre for the first time.
A high-quality musical performance will be ensured by New Opera’s conductor and music director, Jan Latham-Koenig. Latham-Koenig’s CV includes the world’s best orchestras and a wide variety of genres encompassing works by Wagner, Verdi and Janacek. He also has significant experience with Britten’s works, having performed at the Göteborg Opera with Billy Budd and twice at the Novaya Opera with the monumental War Requiem in 2010.
On premiere days Irish opera singers will perform together with Russian artists.
Photo: Patrick Redmond