ROCHESTER, NY The Eastman Opera Theatre opens its fall season with The Turn of the Screw, Benjamin Brittens haunting operatic setting of Henry James classic loss-of-innocence tale. The production will be staged at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, November 2-4, and at 2 p.m., Sunday, November 5, in the Eastman School of Musics Kilbourn Hall (26 Gibbs St.). This will be the first in a season of 20th-century operas at Eastman.
Premiered in Venice in 1954, The Turn of the Screw tells the story of the conflict between a newly appointed governess at the Bly estate and a pair of evil spirits. Quint and Miss Jessel a former manservant and governess acquired an unnatural influence over two children left in their care, Miles and Flora. After their deaths, the two return together as spirits and attempt to continue and complete their possession of the childrens souls. Hired by the childrens ward and uncle, the new governess tries to protect them against the evil power of Quint and Jessel but slowly comes to recognize her own psychological repression. She begins to lose her naiveté, becoming infatuated with the beauty and unnatural maturity of the young boy Miles.
"The story is told through the unstable mind of the governess, an implied retelling of past events," said Steve Daigle, assistant professor of opera, who will direct the production. "Like the novella, what results in the opera is a psychological journey of a governess who loses all reason. What lies at the center of the story is a dark sexual repression. The theme of innocence and experience, of innocence challenged and exploited, recurs throughout James and Brittens works."
John Greer, associate professor of opera, will conduct a special Eastman Opera Theatre orchestra, which will accompany two alternating casts of Eastman voice students. The role of the Governess will be played by Susan Nelson and Amy Van Looy. Grant Knox and Mark Kratz will play Quint, and Nicole Cabell and Sarah Moran share the role of Miss Jessel. (Six other students round out the small cast.) The set design, created by Mary Griswold, will create the Bly estate with the color and texture of abstract expressionism, the dominant art movement at the time of the operas premiere.
Reserved tickets for the opera are $15, $10, and $5. They are available at Ticket Express, 100 East Ave., or by calling 222-5000. Any unsold tickets may be purchased at the box office one hour before the start of each performance.