Opera + Classical Music Reviews

The Turn of the Screw @ Glyndebourne Tour, Lewes

18, 21, 24, 30 October, 7, 14, 21, 28 November 2014


Louise Moseley, Natalya Romaniw & Thomas Delgado-Little
(Photo: Tristram Kenton)

This year’s Glyndebourne Tour season is dedicated to Sir George Christie, and it’s hard to imagine anything more suited to his vision than this version of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw. Christie established the Tour in 1968, with the aim to bring the highest quality opera to as many people as possible, and to nurture talented young singers. If you are under 30, you can see this beautiful production for just £20 on Friday 24th – opera only for the elite? Sir George would have sniffed contemptuously at such a notion.

Jonathan Kent’s staging is meticulously revived here by Francesca Gilpin with designs by Paul Brown and limpid, elegant lighting by Mark Henderson and David Manion. It is one of the most exquisite, jewel-box things you could ever hope to see on stage, despite being, to us, virtually frisson-free. Set in the time of the opera’s composition, it will look familiar to anyone who enjoys the novels of Richard Yates, and you have to admire the technical facility of such features as the elegant rising and falling wall of windows / lake, the countryside hurtling past as the Governess rides to her doom, and the mesmerising revolve. However, it is so bound up with delighting the eye that there is little sense of the sheer horror which James’ story and Britten’s music so chillingly evokes.

The Governess is presented very much as the epitome of one who is, as James put it, “a young woman privately bred” and in Natalya Romaniw’s performance it is her passion for rectitude which shines out, although at times the projection is on the strident side. Anthony Gregory’s Quint is depicted as being about as scary as an insurance salesman, but he compensated for that with some eerily atmospheric singing, the imprecations to Miles almost raising a shudder. Mrs Grose is in the ever-reliable hands of Anne Mason, and Miranda Keys, who had impressed with her Duenna in the Festival’s Rosenkavalier, was a strongly characterized Miss Jessel, portraying vividly what James saw as her “grand melancholy of indifference and detachment.”

Whether desecrating graves or threatening toys, the two ghastly brats were superbly acted and sung by Thomas Delgado-Little and Louise Moseley; what sensible Governess would not have turned tail sharpish, faced with such monsters? – and we intend the question as a compliment to these unusually talented youngsters. Corrupted by an oik who got above himself in league with Jane Eyre’s evil twin? Hardly. The ceremony of innocence may have been drowned but these two gave it something to grapple with on the way down.

Leo McFall is the kind of up-and-coming young conductor whom Glyndebourne has always been keen to encourage, and on this showing he is indeed one to watch; superficially less searing than that of Jakob Hrůša last time, this was nonetheless a highly evocative reading, the chill, eerie sense of a world beyond our own and its possible impact on our equilibrium brought out far more strongly in the pit than on the stage.

There are two more performances at Glyndebourne this week, after which the production, along with La finta giardiniera and La traviata, visits Woking, Canterbury, Norwich, Milton Keynes, Plymouth and Stoke-on-Trent. You can find full details, and book for any Tour performance, at glyndebourne.com


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