Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Benjamin Britten - The Turn of the Screw / Padmore Milne Wyn Davies Montague City of London Sinfonia Hickox|
Actors: Mark Padmore, Lisa Milne, Diana Montague, Catrin Wyn Davies, Caroline Johnson
Genres: Indie & Art House, Horror, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Benjamin Britten's opera The Turn of the Screw is a masterpiece of atmosphere, ambiguity, and eerie foreboding. Britten's vocal lines mirror the characters' thoughts and feelings and his brilliant orchestration, with its v... more »
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Ideal Reading of a Unique, Complex, Disturbing Work
Terry Serres | Minneapolis, MN United States | 04/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The strengths of this DVD are consistent and striking. This is Benjamin Britten's setting of the Henry James novella -- easily the most successful dramatization of the work. It is a chamber opera, with a modest orchestra of strings and winds. All the voices are high in tessitura (in contrast to Billy Budd and Peter Grimes, dominated by male voices). Each scene is set as a variation on a theme. These intimate, intense qualities really give the effect of turning the eponymous screw.
The dramatic themes suggested are quite taxing on audience and performers alike: spiritual molestation, protectiveness and its vulnerability to illusions, the endless terrors of guardianship, the power of absent or abstract forces, the dangers of denying childhood fancy, the nature of innocence. It is Schubert's song "Erlkönig" on an operatic scale.
In its cinematic presentation the DVD is beautifully, evocatively filmed. The scenery and sets are dank, yet rich in hue and texture. The performances as filmed alternate between lip-synched articulation of the text by the singers, and overdubbing of "thought" text. This technique strikes a good balance between inner and outer drama and gives dramatic vigor to scenes where the dialog is explicit.
Cinematic finesse would matter little without accomplished and convincing musical performances underlying it. On musical terms, this is a recording that is hard to top. Richard Hickox's conducting, and the orchestra's delivery, are incisive and insightful. The textures of the strings and winds are clear as a chapel bell throughout, making the score's complexity both accessible and meaningful. The blend of clarity and ominous atmosphere is utterly compelling. Musical cross-references and cross-currents are neatly revealed and fortify our grasp of the drama at every turn.
The cast all sing with beauty and admirable definition of vocal line and character. The high lines come off as tense, not screechy. The voices blend together and distinguish themselves effectively. The dialogues, as sung and acted, are gripping and immediate.
The relationships between the Governess and Mrs Grose, between the Governess and each child, and between the ghosts, are as vivid and realistic as can be. By contrast, the connections between the children and ghosts seem veiled. The ghosts come off as menacing and insidious, yes, but also as needy and vulnerable -- they are haggard and clearly deranged. Quint in particular is more commonly depicted as a suave influence -- here that element of seductive allure is pointedly not brought out, making his depravity all the starker. Padmore's Quint is a brute, as clearly described in the text. As the children shape their roles, this Miles clearly views Quint with more fear than fascination, while the Flora conveys toward Miss Jessel an air of tenderness.
To an extent the veiled quality of the interactions between ghosts and children has the effect of making the final two scenes less crushing. This may have something to do with Lisa Milne's vocal and physical heft -- she is the exorcist, and Quint doesn't stand a chance. There is a certain inevitability to the final scenes, even to Miles's death -- he was long ago "lost, lost."
Mark Padmore as Quint has real Pears-ian qualities, and his singing evokes the beauty of the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings. Though Quint is portrayed as less suave, Padmore's melismas are suitably sinuous and creepy. Lisa Milne as the Governess strikes nary a false note, dramatically or musically. Her doubts, determination and foreboding are wonderfully set forth in the very first scene in the carriage. She owns the climactic moments: "Who is it, who, who?"; "See what I see, know what I know"; "They are lost, lost"; her reprise of "Malo malo malo" -- all are gripping. Diana Montague is superbly cast as Mrs Grose, a role that often falls to superannuated sopranos with wool in their throats. She is a fine actress, and the strength of her characterization enriches the entire web of relationships in this work. Her major scene -- "Is there no end to his evil ways" -- is a tour de force. Catrin Wyn Davies evokes the ravaged spirit of Miss Jessel with fevered but strong singing. And the children are not at all outclassed in their solo moments or in the numerous ensembles. Their portrayals are honest and affecting, with the creepiness of their situation never overdone.
One could quibble with this or that, but any lapses are evanescent. I will say that, knowing the work and its literary source well, I came away from this new recording with surprising new insights into the work. That is a credit to the success of the staging, the singing, and the overall direction. Bravo!
Colin Graham | Saint Louis, MO United States | 08/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As the stage manager of the first production of this opera, and as a stage director who has directed it many times, I am very happy to say that I enjoyed this DVD enormously. Beautifully directed and photographed, very interestingly cast, musically impeccable, so well acted and never overstated. The interludes (which have so often given directors problems) were brilliantly handled with an imagination completely in key with the intentions of the composer and librettist and, of course, with Henry James, the author of the novella on which the opera is based.
One of the Best Filmed-Opera DVDs Ever Made
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 06/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"[I have little to add to Terry Serres' really quite beautifully written and considered review. Indeed, I suggest you read it first, before reading my comments.]
The main thing I want to add, aside from endorsing everything Serres has said, is to point out that TV director Katie Mitchell and her co-workers have made a rarely-used form of television opera production in that the opera is opened out as a movie would be -- that is, it is not confined to an opera stage, but rather is filmed in beautiful British surroundings using the actual singers who recorded the music. What is striking is that at times the singers are seen actually singing their parts but at other times they are filmed as actors with, often, interior monologs being sung by them on the accompanying soundtrack. This is done so seamlessly that it took me a while to realize what the director had done.
Further, the singers are particularly visually apt for their parts. Mark Padmore, aside from being a marvelous singer, becomes the embodiment of the eerie Quint. Lisa Milne looks and acts the part of the innocent but plucky young governess, and she sings beautifully. Diana Montague, in a former time a leading lady of opera -- I still remember her stunning Iphigenia in Gluck's 'Iphigénie in Tauride' -- is simply unbeatable as Mrs. Grose. The two children, Miles and Flora, are convincingly played and sung by Nicholas Kirby Johnson and Keturah Day. Catrin Wyn Davies makes an effective Miss Jessel.
Musically the direction of Richard Hickox, leading the City of London Sinfonia, cannot be bettered. This is a psychologically deft performance.
This is easily one of the best opera DVDs ever made. I had earlier praised (and still like) the staged version from the Schwetzingen Festival, but this one is dramatically much more effective.
Revelatory! A Must-Have!
MDFinMIA | N. Miami, FL USA | 05/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Highest praise for Katie Mitchell's extraordinary cinematic version of this difficult opera. At last, I've found a production that fully opens Britten's work to me...haunting, atmospheric, beautifully filmed and musically involving. Conductor Richard Hickox leads a revelatory performance with a cast that's sung and acted admirably. Highly recommended."