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Britten - The Turn of the Screw
filmed at Fulbeck Hall in Lincolnshire, 2004

Mark Padmore, Lisa Milne, Catrin Wyn Davies, Diana Montague, Nicholas Kirby Johnson, Caroline Wise
City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
Television Director Katie Mitchell
Production Designer Alison Chitty
Director of Photography Nick Morris

Opus Arte DVD/(BBC Wales TV): OA0907D [16:9 TT 2 hrs]

The long term durability of Benjamin Britten’s haunting and sinister opera, based on the Henry James novella, is assured, it having been produced successfully in numerous guises world-wide.

The Cologne Opera DVD is completely eclipsed by this imaginative TV filmed version. It is a team creation, with the sets, camera work and lighting contributing powerfully to a disturbing semi-realistic period presentation which leaves unspeakable 'horrors' always close to the fore. The boundaries between the living and the dead are chillingly blurred.

The characterisations are all telling and ring true, Lisa Milne very different from the thin, tense portrayals of the governess more usual, the children fully convincing in their conspiratorial secret games and private thoughts of sexual excesses at the country house which have blighted the 'family', with its absent master, their full destructiveness only revealed fully with a third mysterious death.

My only reservation is whether the verbal clarity and emphasis on the singers is slightly at the expense of the chamber orchestra, which plays spendidly, being balanced a little backwardly? But it is possible that this may be satisfactory on other equipment; it is increasingly hard and risky nowadays to be dogmatic about recording quality with so many reproducing options.

My favourite staged performances were both by Broomhill Opera, one in 1996 at Broomhill (the company's first home at an estate full of follies near Tunbridge Wells), the other in 2000 on bare boards at its current home, Wilton's Music Hall in London.

This new BBC Wales TV/DVD is one of the most successful of the tricky genre of filmed opera. Very strongly recommended to viewers who do not demand staging verimilitude for home viewing of opera.

© Peter Grahame Woolf