Music and Vision homepage Jenna Orkin: Writer Wannabe Seeks Brush With Death - From the heights of greatness (the Juilliard School; musicians Rosalyn Tureck and Nadia Boulanger) via way-ward paths to the depths of wickedness these reminiscences will entertain and enlighten.

 

<<  -- 2 --  Roderic Dunnett    A HAUNTING FUTURE

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Letting tenor Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts loose on Peter Quint (and also the Prologue) was an inspired, overdue piece of casting. Lloyd-Roberts, already a superb Albert Herring for Garsington and a potential Vere and Grimes, hasn't the mellifluous voice of a Pears or Langridge or Bostridge : if anything, he still tends to bark slightly. Hence the usual focus of the role -- his calls to Miles, the sheer poetry of Myfanwy Piper's mischievous text, his sinuous allure -- yielded to other aspects. When we first meet Quint, as the Prologue, suitcase in hand, cigarette in hand like a louche car salesman, and Miss Jessel trailing behind like a forlorn plaything, his temple is shivered by an open and weeping scar. Mrs Grose's description of his death -- cue horrific cello solo and then strings -- was especially horrid in Lionel Friend's forever revealing handling of the score; here in the Prologue, Britten's controlled orchestral build-up was especially fine-tuned.

Miss Jessel (Janis Kelly) and Peter Quint (Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts) in Britten's 'The Turn of the Screw' at Grange Park Opera. Photo © Clive Barda
Miss Jessel (Janis Kelly) and Peter Quint (Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts) in Britten's 'The Turn of the Screw' at Grange Park Opera. Photo © Clive Barda

Andrew Walsh's designs worked well : a spare ruralist frontdrop and onstage a tiny Bly, like a castle on which the children in their wilder flights of fancy mount, plus a terrifying skylight opening onto icy blues that suggest some dire Jungian world beyond. Bly proper seemed to occupy a vast space, as if we were indeed in the cavity of the head : a pertinent comment on the Governess's imaginings (or otherwise).

Natasha Marsh as The Governess in 'The Turn of the Screw'. Photo © Clive Barda
Natasha Marsh as The Governess in 'The Turn of the Screw'. Photo © Clive Barda

Natasha Marsh's Governess had presence from the start, albeit a slight dearth of tone when not singing full pelt. The omens are there already : 'Why did I come?' is sung to the music of Piper's Verlaine-based 'The ceremony of innocence is drowned' -- darkness encloses the Jane Eyre-like girl even in her initial forebodings.

The orchestration is everything : flute cavorting within the textures as Mrs Grose introduces the children; violin solo at the first mention of Miles; touches of oboe, pianissimo xylophone and horn, or bassoon pecking like a warning bird : every orchestral utterance yields paradox. The Governess's rapturous soliloquy has something of Budd, and something too of Aschenbach to come. Fussing woodwind and then marimba herald her second sighting of Quint. Her exchange with Mrs Grose, and the latter's revelation about the manner of Quint's death, were as stark and lucid as could be.

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Copyright © 15 September 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

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