The Turn of the Screw, Benjamin Britten’s dark chamber opera that is regarded by many as the finest of his stage-works, opens Eastman Opera Theatre’s new season starting Thursday, Nov. 6.
“As a composer, Britten creates richly colored sonorities that envelope the listener and audience between the real and psychological world that the heroine (the Governess) inhabits,” said Steven Daigle, artistic director of Eastman Opera Theatre and chair of the Eastman School of Music’s voice and opera department. “This is especially evident in The Turn of the Screw in the complex interludes that reflect the previous action and move into the next scene, and in the musical motifs associated with the characters.”
Britten’s opera is based on a famous novella by Henry James. The tale is alternately interpreted as a ghost story, with evil spirits corrupting two children, or as a tale of sexual repression and the psychological instability of their governess.
Daigle is staging the work as a psychological thriller, exploring the story from the governess’s perspective. The young woman is entrusted with the care of two orphans and begins to suspect that the siblings are under the control of the ghosts of two former servants. Her story raises questions about imagination and memory and the line between fact and fiction.
To underscore the psychological aspect of the story, Daigle has set the opera in an asylum. The Gothic look of the sparse set features stained glass windows, referencing the historical fact that asylums were run by church institutions and the contemporary sexual abuse scandals involving priests. The asylum inmates present similar actions and relationships to the characters in the story, creating even more uncertainty about the truth of the governess’s narration.
Though the narrative revolves around two children, The Turn of the Screw has mature themes and is not for children, Daigle notes.
The Turn of the Screw features two alternating casts of Eastman voice students, accompanied by an ensemble of Eastman opera orchestra musicians conducted by Benton Hess, Distinguished Professor of Voice and music director of the Eastman Opera Theatre.
The opera will be presented in the Eastman School’s Kilbourn Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 6, on Friday, Nov. 7, and on Saturday, Nov. 8, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Nov. 9. Pre-performance lectures will be given one hour before the start of each performance in Room 120 in the Eastman School’s Main Hall.
Tickets are $10 to $20 (discounts with UR ID), available at the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra box office, 108 East Ave., by phone at 585-454-2100, or online at https://www.esm.rochester.edu/concerts/tickets.php
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Thursday, Nov. 6, at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 9, at 2 p.m.
Eastman Opera Theatre presents Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw
Steven Daigle, stage director; Benton Hess, music director
Kilbourn Hall, 26 Gibbs St.
Tickets $10 to $20 (discounts with UR ID), available at the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra box office, 108 East Ave., by phone at 585-454-2100, or online at https://www.esm.rochester.edu/concerts/tickets.php
Pre-performance lectures one hour before the start of each performance in Room 120, Eastman School of Music.