SCHEDULE
Matinees at 2:30 pm
Evenings at 8:00 pm
Runs July 14 through August 4
TICKETS
SUBSCRIPTIONS
SAVE 20%
VIDEO
The Turn
of The Screw
BY BENJAMIN BRITTEN
FULL CREDITS
more

The Artists of The Turn of the Screw

Music Benjamin Britten
Libretto Myfanwy Piper
Based upon a novella by Henry James
Conductor Steuart Bedford
Director Alessandro Talevi
Scenic and Costume Designer; Projection Co-Designer Madeleine Boyd
Lighting Designer David Martin Jacques
Wig/Makeup Designer Dave Bova*
Projection Co-Designer Rohan Kilkelly*

 

Cast

Prologue/Peter Quint Vale Rideout
Governess Sinéad Mulhern*
Miles John Healy**
Flora Alisa Jordheim
Mrs. Grose Maria Zifchak
Miss Jessel Rebecca Nash*

* Indicates Central City Opera Mainstage Debut
** Member of Colorado Children's Chorale

FULL CAST
more
John Healy
John Healy
Alisa Suzanne Jordheim
Alisa Suzanne Jordheim
Sinéad Mulhern
Sinéad Mulhern
Rebecca Nash*
Rebecca Nash*
Vale Rideout
Vale Rideout
Maria Zifchak
Maria Zifchak
CREATIVE TEAM
more
Steuart Bedford
Steuart Bedford
Dave Bova
Dave Bova
Madeleine Boyd
Madeleine Boyd
David Martin Jacques
David Martin Jacques
Alessandro Talevi
Alessandro Talevi
DIRECTOR'S NOTES (Alessandro Talevi)
more
"The central question regarding The Turn of the Screw is whether the apparitions the Governess sees are real or imagined. There are other mysteries in this work: what happened in the house when Peter Quint and Miss Jessel were still alive? Why was Miles expelled from school? It is imperative, despite the temptation to present a theory, for a director to keep the work’s ambiguity, to maintain the constant tension between perception and reality. Translating this to the stage means allowing the audience to question whether what they see is an objective version of events or a subjective reality that is filtered through the Governess’s imagination.

To this end, we have created a scenic environment that questions the concept of ‘reality’. It plays with the idea of visual perception through the suggestion of camera obscura and photography, and how the eye translates strange or unusual information into concrete, recognisable images. The set can be seen not only as a literal depiction of Bly House, but also as a symbol of the Governess’s mind- a dark place into which unfamiliar and disconcerting images penetrate, and which are then ‘interpreted’."
HISTORY
more
"Before the story came to English composer Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976), The Turn of the Screw was a novella of Henry James, published in 1898. James had combined two favorite plot elements of Victorian writers: that of a young governess enmeshed in inexplicable events and that of ghosts engaged in an unstated mission. To further increase the intensity of the tale, another “turn of the Screw” as James himself says in the story’s second paragraph, two children – the governess’ charges – are also concerned. It ends well for none of them, though the governess (who is never named) managed to survive the adventure. For Gothic creepiness, for what the New York Times in its review of the first edition called a ""study of the magic of evil,” James’ work had few equals, and over a century later, still stands as one of the great literary explorations of the macabre.

Britten had come to know the tale in his youth and admired it, but did not immediately select it for musical expression. The composer was well into his thirties and successfully launched in his compositional career before his friend and colleague, the writer Myfanwy (mih-VAHN-wih) Piper, suggested it to him as an opera subject. Britten asked her to craft for him a libretto. This was a more complicated task than one might imagine, for in James’ novella, the children have little to say, the ghosts nothing at all, and the various persons in the introductory framing story never reappear at all. So though there is plenty of emotional drama, there is not much for the singers to do. Knowing Britten well enough to have a sense of what he wanted in a libretto, Ms. Piper turned the framing story into a short prologue in which one singer alone sets the scene. Then follow the opera’s two short act – well less than two hours in all – with the governess, the housekeeper, the two children, and the two ghosts, for whom Ms. Piper crafted lines. Not only does this bring more voices into the cast, it also offers some insights into what the ghosts are attempting to achieve. Britten was pleased enough with the results that he would ultimately work with Ms. Piper on two more operas: Owen Wingrave and Death in Venice.

The Turn of the Screw premiered September 14, 1954, in Venice at La Fenice Opera House, where a century earlier Verdi’s Rigoletto and La traviata had premiered. It was ninth of Britten’s seventeen operas. The cast included tenor Peter Pears, Britten’s own life partner and then one of the most respected of English tenors. In the pivotal role of young Miles, intended to be age ten or so, was David Hemmings. Only thirteen at the time, he would go on to a successful film career. Casting the role of Miles is often the most difficult, for though he is not in every scene, when he is there, his music and his dramatic demands are remarkably difficult for a young artist. Yet given the right casting for this and the other roles, The Turn of the Screw is an intensely powerful evening at the theater.

Britten called The Turn of the Screw a “chamber opera,” for it is not only short but also requires only a small cast and small orchestra. There are only six singers: one tenor, three sopranos, and two children, a boy and a girl. The tenor will have two parts to cover: the brief prologue and the role of the ghost Quint. Britten made a point of differentiating between ghosts and mortals in musical styles. The mortals are lyrically written and grounded in familiar keys, at least as long as they refrain from panic. The ghosts are more disjointed and eerie in sound.

In this division of style for the mortals and ghosts, Britten is assisted in the make-up of his small orchestra. It contains only thirteen musicians, including a large complement of woodwinds (amongst them piccolo, alto flute, English horn, and bass clarinet, as well as more standard choices) and also abundant percussion (the usual choices supplemented by glockenspiel, gong, wood block, triangle, tom-tom, and tubular bells). Most often, the more unexpected instruments make their appearances in the ghosts’ scenes. However, there are also orchestral interludes in which Britten reinforces the unearthly aura by building upon a haunting, so-called “screw” theme in which all twelve notes of the octave, white and black keys alike, appear in ordered sequence. It was a technique known as “serialism” and was popular in the avant garde, though not then much followed in the operatic mainstream. Britten pushed the boundaries so as to bring out that much more clearly the surreal nature of events.

All in all, The Turn of the Screw was the most modern thing Britten had composed, and over half a century after its premiere, still sounds progressive n places. Yet the musical techniques he used came to be influential, especially in film music. If one transferred Britten’s score to a Hitchcock film, the moods and images would suit each other well. Whatever the medium, spooky is spooky, and Britten’s opera is a masterpiece of that particular realm.

Notes by Betsy Schwarm"
SCREWFEST
PARANORMAL PROJECT
more
Dare to take a trip to the other side…
In celebration of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw and Menotti’s The Medium, Central City Opera has partnered with organizations throughout Denver and beyond to present paranormal happenings through the 2012 Summer Festival.
Learn more...
THE INSIDE SCOOP
more
For insider information on OKLAHOMA!, LA BOHEME, THE TURN OF THE SCREW and the entire 2012 Festival, follow our blog or download The 2012 Opera Insider (Full Season Resource Guide) (pdf) featuring history on all of the 2012 Festival operas, their composers, interviews with artists, and festival information.