Opera North’s record of success in the operas of Benjamin Britten continues with The Turn of the Screw in an imaginative and atmospheric production by
Alessandro Talevi. Matthew Haskins’ precise and dramatic lighting finds all the dark corners of Madeleine Boyd’s stylishly skewed set. Under Richard Farnes’ direction a chamber orchestra of 12 Opera North principals (plus a notable contribution from Anthony Kraus on piano and celeste) revels in the solo exposure and acutely differentiates the mood shifts from the idyllic to the terrifying.
Myfanwy Piper’s libretto skilfully condenses the Henry James novella, telling the story through a series of short scenes, often separated by orchestral interludes. Though the story-telling is not always clear in Talevi’s fluent production, the impact of the key scenes hardly suffers.
The production emphasises the centrality of Miles and is rewarded with a remarkable performance from 13-year-old James Micklethwaite, singing and acting with total assurance and forming a charming and terrifying pair of siblings with Fflur Wyn’s Flora. The most exciting singing of the evening comes from Benjamin Hulett, shaping the Prologue elegantly and singing Peter Quint with an intensity matched by his fellow ghost Miss Jessel (Giselle Allen). Elizabeth Atherton sings the central part of the Governess beautifully and grows into the character as the hysteria builds and Yvonne Howard’s sympathetic Mrs Grose completes a well balanced set of principals.