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8 Reviews
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I found it. I like it. Do you?", November 13, 2013
By 
Larry Bridges "thebachelor" (Arlington, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Britten: The Turn of the Screw [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This excellent but not necessarily definitive production from Glyndebourne worthily represents Britten's "The Turn of the Screw" in the Blu-Ray format. The decision to set the production in the 1950s, when the opera was composed, rather than in the Victorian era, has definite benefits but disadvantages as well. The story becomes more emotionally immediate, and perhaps it's true, as the booklet suggests, that the caste system was still present enough in 1950s Britain to make believable such elements as Mrs. Grose asking if she may "take the liberty" to kiss the Governess. On the other hand, the Governess' strength of character (for good or for ill) is less remarkable than in the original, in which one has to bear in mind that she cannot vote and has been raised with the unquestioning acceptance that hers is the inferior gender, socially, morally and intellectually (cf. Flora's resentment when the Governess tells her they need to work on "Miles' Latin").

The visual production is full of excellent touches, especially the coup de theatre at the end of the Prologue when the home movie of Miles and Flora is replaced by a projection of the windows of the Governess' train. I also liked how the revolving stage allows Flora's dollhouse to take on the role of the house of Bly itself on the other side of the lake from which Miss Jessel appears. However, I found the depiction of the ghosts somewhat over the top. Toby Spence cuts a chilling figure in his modern suit as Peter Quint, but does he have to play him quite so much like a "Doctor Who" villain? It's especially disappointing after Spence's human and likable Prologue. And must Miss Jessel look like Kristen Wiig playing a Korean water ghost on SNL?

Incidentally, the Prologue is staged with Toby Spence examining a chest of artifacts from the events at Bly, including home movies, the boat Flora makes beside the lake and Miles' teddy bear. This raises the interesting question of who precisely the Prologue **is**. (He is, of course, inspired by the character of Douglas in James' story, but the details of the framing device involving Douglas are omitted from the opera.) If he simply has the Governess' manuscript in his possession, he could be almost anyone -- a great-nephew of the Governess? Henry James? Peter Pears? -- and need not have any strong emotional connection to the events at Bly. In this production, however, his having the chest implies that he is someone connected to Miles and Flora's family as well as to the Governess. Could he be a grown-up Miles, whose death was merely a delusion on the Governess' part (although his hair color is different)?

Perhaps the most memorable and chilling moment in this production is the scene of the children going to church. From both the words of the libretto and Miles and Flora's actions -- especially what they do with Flora's doll -- it is clear that the children are uttering terrible blasphemies against Christianity. What makes the scene especially disturbing in this production is the realization that an audience in modern secular Britain presumably sees nothing wrong with children saying and doing these things. The ceremony of innocence is drowned, indeed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A startling and stunning new vision of a classic, November 15, 2013
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This review is from: Britten: The Turn of the Screw [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This is a bold new interpretation of Britten's opera, produced at Glyndebourne in 2011. The story is relocated to the year 1955. You might expect this would dilute the creepy mood of the piece, but surprisingly it doesn't. But wrenched from its Victorian context, the narrative takes on a welcome immediacy and vigor. In spite of being quite minimal, the production's mise-en-scene, with its huge glass window dominating the stage, is breathtaking. There are some directorial choices that you just have to roll with; most particularly involving the frank and unflinchingly explicit portrayal of the relationship between Quint and Miles. It is of course extremely effective, I need hardly hasten to add. It is refreshing to see an opera in the hands of a director with a new and bold vision which is nonetheless entirely in the service of the text.

Musically, this production is stunning. Everyone in the ensemble managed to bring something to their role that I hadn't seen before. This is without exaggeration one of the very best opera videos I have ever seen.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best, April 20, 2013
By 
Rex B. Faubion "Curious Reader" (Mountain View, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Turn of the Screw (DVD)
Excellent voices, competent acting, imaginative production. Very satisfying execution of this interesting score. One of the best recordings of a Britten opera.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An impressive and convincing production, performance and recording of this fine opera and well worth considering, February 10, 2014
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This review is from: Britten: The Turn of the Screw [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This disc, recorded in 2011 is the third version of this production put on at Glyndebourne and, as Jonathan Kent the producer explains in the very informative bonus films, each time there has been a précising down with an ever increasing concentration of impact.
The period is the 1950's, the period in which the story was written. There has been a deliberate attempt to avoid `hiding' behind a Victorian ghost story and rather there is portrayed a psychological drama set in the last decade of believable innocence.

The staging is very simple in so far as there is a revolving stage with a central large glass panel like an enormous window that is tilted and turned in all directions. This glass panel acts as a see-through screen mediating between the real and imagined, the inside and outside and many other pairs of opposites as the story progresses.

The cast in the opera are just six accompanied by a very small chamber orchestra which only rarely plays together. The instruments are imaginatively used in small combinations to create remarkable and effective textures ideal to create the shifting moods of the story.

The opera starts with a prologue taken by Toby Spence who also takes the part of Peter Quince. In this he acts in an un-ghostly manner and in this way achieves a character of utter evil. The two children are played by Joanna Songi as Flora and Thomas Parfitt as Miles. Both are note perfect and this has to be seen as a remarkable achievement from a 12 year old boy. Mrs Grose is an effective housekeeper, played by Susan Bickley and Mrs Jessel is strongly played by Giselle Allen. The stage star of the evening has to be Miah Persson as the governess whose innocence is equally destroyed by events.

The words `played' or `taken' as chosen above, have been chosen to reflect Jonathan Kent's self-description of his role as similar to producing a play or drama on stage. However this is also an opera and, without singling out anyone at all as that would be invidious in the circumstances, it should stressed that the considerable musical demands of the score are overcome to the point where one never even considers them, the viewer is so caught up in the drama.

There are many simply spine tingling moments and here the camera work certainly aids the impact of the video production. The imaging is very sharp and the colour rendition is perfect. The sound is presented in both DTS 5.1 and stereo and is as full ranging as the instrumentation allows and is especially clear. The conductor, Jakub Hrusa, is able to conjure superb results from his small band of talented musicians.

The 22 minutes of bonus films offer a deep insight to this work and production in the words of the producer, designer, conductor and cast. This bonus is excellently informative and straightforward to follow.

In total, the combination of production, performance and recording offered by this disc amount to a particularly impressive and involving musical and dramatic experience.
It is reasonable to suggest therefore that this disc should warrant, at the very least, very serious consideration from any purchaser looking for a fine modern recording of this powerful opera.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britten a standout in centennial year., June 16, 2013
By 
JHB-4 "jhb-4" (New Orleans, LA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Britten: The Turn of the Screw [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This performance from 2012 at Glyndebourne in England is simply superb!! Reset In the mid-20th century, the concept works beautifully and the performance is tops from all concerned-- performers and orchestra alike! Gorgeous presentation on a perfect Blu-ray.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting new production of Turn of the Screw, February 11, 2013
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This review is from: Britten: The Turn of the Screw [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I thought that the updating of the time period of the opera would lessen it's impact, but it doesn't.
All the singing actors were quite good.
If you like Britten, this is well worth adding to your collection.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Production, Fabulous Performances, August 23, 2014
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This review is from: Britten: The Turn of the Screw [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Wonderful production with fabulous performances all around.
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars DVD of "Turn of the Screw," has prepared me for its upcoming Opera., October 29, 2013
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This review is from: Turn of the Screw (DVD)
I chose a rating of four stars because I found it a very difficult opera to follow. I had to read everything offered by the DVD before I could begin to enjoy the opera itself.
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Britten: The Turn of the Screw [Blu-ray]
Britten: The Turn of the Screw [Blu-ray] by Jonathan Kent (Blu-ray - 2013)
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