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Britten, 'The Turn of the Screw' Benjamin Britten International Opera School at Royal College of Music,, 27th November 2003

Britten at the Britten Theatre! The first night of this fairly conventional production has been praised extravagantly in Seen&Heard and in The Times, which found it "the most harrowing and frisson-laden show of the year - - seven times better than Covent Garden’s last shot at the Screw".

That we did not have quite that experience may be because we know it too well to expect surprise, and possibly because the second cast singers we heard may have been not quite a match for those appearing on the first night? (I am always reluctant to say too much about singers in these student productions unless, exceptionally, one gets to see both casts.)

This Screw is indeed strong on accomplishment; but for us it scored decidedly less so on imagination than the Hazelwood/Moshinsky version at Wilton's Music Hall, for which I urge you to click my link to Broomhill Opera!

At the RCM, the scenes were economically set and well lit and the curtain fell for the interludes, as Britten intended. There was little to seriously fault on this last night of the short run. But there was no image on stage as striking as that on the excellent programme cover (inside we were able to read about the scenes in Henry James' original story).

The detail of the acting was well realised by John Copley and clearly carefully rehearsed. Chris Christodoulou's photo of Simona Mihai (Governess) and Katrina Waters (Mrs Grose) shows the period costuming. The tenor roles (often taken by one singer) were exchanged in the two casts by Thomas Walker and Nicholas Watts, and both impressed. The two children were notably good (the Flora part can be an awkward one, as is certainly the case on the Schwetzinger DVD).

The orchestra was smooth and fully professional under Michael Rosewell, and the playing and singing was flattered by the ideal acoustics of the delightful Britten Theatre, just the right size and shape for the Opera School's productions. A good evening, if not quite a great one.



© Peter Grahame Woolf