Turn of the Screw, Opera Holland Park, OHP, July 2014Posted on 2 July 2014
All performances start at 8 o’clock, and for good reason. The month is July and Act II emerges as the outside light gradually dims.
In early Act I with daylight outside, Miles goes to a large blackboard on one side of the stage and draws the outline of what looks like a door. In the darker world of Act II that door opens and Quint steps through. Annilese Miskimmon’s apparently straightforward, yet subtle production, with designs by Leslie Travers, seems to conjure people from nowhere. In Act II scene 3 when the Governess goes to her room, Erin Pritchard’s Miss Jessel lies curled up on a table representing a bed, and with great depth of feeling sings “Here my tragedy began, here revenge begins”. At the end Miles lies in the same position, and resonances like this infuse the production with a feeling that as the screw turns the result is foreordained.
The precision of Steuart Bedford’s conducting with the excellent City of London Sinfonia gave a fine connection between orchestra and singers, and allowed the tension to build. Yet even at the beginning, Dominic Lynch’s unnerving portrayal of Miles hinted at dark forces yet to be revealed, and it was with some relief to me that during the curtain calls he leapt over to hug the director. A perfectly normal boy then, but what a demonic performance, with a devilish purity of pitch and tone. The interactions with Rosie Lomas’s young sounding and looking Flora skirted on the edge of a liaison dangereuse, and in Act I as they touched one another and exited the stage a peacock in the park cried out its objection.
Very fine singing all round, with a glorious Mrs Grose from Diana Montague, a beautiful governess by Ellie Laugharne, a forceful Quint by Brenden Gunnell, and a fine portrayal of the narrator/ schoolmaster by Robin Tritschler. In this production a schoolmaster and eight boys in grey uniforms appear from time to time, with one boy showing desire for the teacher who remains consciously, but perhaps not unconsciously, aloof. This simpler version of the Miles/ Quint relationship before ‘The ceremony of innocence is drowned’ (Act II, Quint and Miss Jessel) seems particularly apt with the recent media concern about sexual abuse of minors.
As the light outside went down and the opera came to an end Mark Jonathan’s excellent lighting, which had earlier provided a giant shadow for Quint, gave the blackboard on stage a red glow. Miles has finally called Quint a devil, the ghost vanishes but the boy expires.
Performances of this excellent production continue on various dates until July 12 — for details click here.