The Turn of the Screw

L.A. Opera offers up a mesmerizing "The Turn of the Screw," from Glydenbourne, with a truly remarkable cast.

With:
Governess - Patricia Racette
Peter Quint - William Burden
Miles - Michael Kepler Meo
Flora - Ashley Emerson
Mrs. Grose - Ann Murray
Miss Jessel - Tamara Wilson

L.A. Opera has done a terrific job this winter picking up productions from European opera houses. An inspired “Turk in Italy,” from Hamburg Opera, just concluded its run. And now comes a mesmerizing “The Turn of the Screw,” from Glydenbourne, with a truly remarkable cast. Henry James’ ghosts are alive, really sick and singing the bejesus out of Benjamin Britten’s powerful score.

James never had any success as a playwright, and yet his novellas “The Turn of the Screw” and “Washington Square” went on to have long life in the theater, thanks to this Britten opera and “The Heiress.” Augustus and Ruth Goetz blew out the latter tale of an embittered daughter. Britten stayed truer to James’ story of a governess who sees ghosts. But an opera is an opera, and in this one, the ghosts of Peter Quint (William Burden) and Miss Jessel (newcomer Tamara Wilson, a Brunnhilde in training) not only most definitely appear, they sing. What James merely suggests, Britten powerfully conveys in his music: When the ghosts sing to the children Miles (Michael Kepler Meo) and Flora (Ashley Emerson), it’s an erotic act. This production — directed here by Francesca Gilpin and originally staged by Jonathan Kent in Glydenbourne — leaves no doubt about that, having the encounter with the ghosts take place as Miles and Flora bathe for the evening. No wonder the Governess (Patricia Racette) is freaked.

In Britten’s world, there’s little doubt about the “bad” that took place between Quint and little Miles. Whether it’s all in the Governess’s mind or the boy’s is another story. But Britten gives Miles an obscene lesson in Latin to sing, as well as a piano ditty that soon descends into a mad ride on the ivories.

The 12-year-old Meo emerges as both child and man, and it’s an amazing performance. Emerson, an adult soprano, totally convinces as the young Flora. (Think Anika Noni Rose in the original “Caroline, or Change.”) Burden’s clear tenor possesses a sensual throb that takes his portrayal places that even the original Quint, Peter Pears, could not suggest. And Racette holds it all together by being alternately maternal, infatuated, hysterical, indignant, resolute.

Kent places this “Turn of the Screw” in the 1940s, which takes some getting used to. But in the end, repression is repression. Conductor James Conlon keeps it taut. Paul Brown’s simple box set is the perfect trap. Under David Manion’s eerie lighting, a floating slab of clear glass suggests a greenhouse, French doors and, most magically, a lake for Miss Jessel to float under and rise from.

The Turn of the Screw

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles; 3,000 seats, $270 top

Production: An L.A. Opera presentation of an opera in two acts by Benjamin Britten. Directed by Francesca Gilpin after Jonathan Kent. Conducted by James Conlon.

Crew: Sets and costumes, Paul Brown; lighting, David Manion after Mark Henderson. Opened, reviewed Mar. 12, 2011. Runs through Mar. 30. Running time: 2 HOURS 20 MIN.

Cast: Governess - Patricia Racette
Peter Quint - William Burden
Miles - Michael Kepler Meo
Flora - Ashley Emerson
Mrs. Grose - Ann Murray
Miss Jessel - Tamara Wilson

More Music

  • Nick CarterAOL Build Speaker Series, New

    Backstreet Boys' Nick Carter Accused of Rape

    L.A. Opera has done a terrific job this winter picking up productions from European opera houses. An inspired “Turk in Italy,” from Hamburg Opera, just concluded its run. And now comes a mesmerizing “The Turn of the Screw,” from Glydenbourne, with a truly remarkable cast. Henry James’ ghosts are alive, really sick and singing the […]

  • THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON

    Breaking ‘Redbone’: The Campaign Behind Childish Gambino’s Unlikely Hit

    L.A. Opera has done a terrific job this winter picking up productions from European opera houses. An inspired “Turk in Italy,” from Hamburg Opera, just concluded its run. And now comes a mesmerizing “The Turn of the Screw,” from Glydenbourne, with a truly remarkable cast. Henry James’ ghosts are alive, really sick and singing the […]

  • David Cassidy'Once In A Lifetime' concert

    Celebrities Remember David Cassidy: 'Love and Mercy to David'

    L.A. Opera has done a terrific job this winter picking up productions from European opera houses. An inspired “Turk in Italy,” from Hamburg Opera, just concluded its run. And now comes a mesmerizing “The Turn of the Screw,” from Glydenbourne, with a truly remarkable cast. Henry James’ ghosts are alive, really sick and singing the […]

  • David Cassidy Partridge Family

    David Cassidy, 'Partridge Family' Star, Dies at 67

    L.A. Opera has done a terrific job this winter picking up productions from European opera houses. An inspired “Turk in Italy,” from Hamburg Opera, just concluded its run. And now comes a mesmerizing “The Turn of the Screw,” from Glydenbourne, with a truly remarkable cast. Henry James’ ghosts are alive, really sick and singing the […]

  • Jean-Michel Jarre

    CISAC Reports Global Royalty Collections Hit Record $10 Billion

    L.A. Opera has done a terrific job this winter picking up productions from European opera houses. An inspired “Turk in Italy,” from Hamburg Opera, just concluded its run. And now comes a mesmerizing “The Turn of the Screw,” from Glydenbourne, with a truly remarkable cast. Henry James’ ghosts are alive, really sick and singing the […]

  • Lupus Research Alliance 'Breaking Through Lupus

    Selena Gomez Chokes Up While Describing 'Life or Death Struggle' With Lupus

    L.A. Opera has done a terrific job this winter picking up productions from European opera houses. An inspired “Turk in Italy,” from Hamburg Opera, just concluded its run. And now comes a mesmerizing “The Turn of the Screw,” from Glydenbourne, with a truly remarkable cast. Henry James’ ghosts are alive, really sick and singing the […]

  • Monte Lipman Avery Lipman Republic Records

    Hitmakers: From 'Despacito' to Post Malone, Republic Records Had (Another) Very Good Year

    L.A. Opera has done a terrific job this winter picking up productions from European opera houses. An inspired “Turk in Italy,” from Hamburg Opera, just concluded its run. And now comes a mesmerizing “The Turn of the Screw,” from Glydenbourne, with a truly remarkable cast. Henry James’ ghosts are alive, really sick and singing the […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content