Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Probing Bernstein and MacMillan double bill in Amsterdam

The Opera Forward Festival (OFF) in Amsterdam is about new things: new compositions, rediscovered works and new faces. This year’s program included a double bill produced by Dutch National Opera’s talent development wing. Leonard Bernstein’s portrait of a miserable marriage in affluent suburbia, Trouble in Tahiti, was the contrasting companion piece to James McMillan’s Clemency, a study of the sinister side of religious belief.

Macbeth in Lyon

A revival of the Opéra de Lyon’s 2012 Occupy Wall St. production of Verdi’s 1865 Macbeth, transforming naive commentary into strange irony, some high art included.

Barber of Seville Is Fun in Tucson

On March 4, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in Tucson. Allen Moyer designed the bright and happy scenery for performances at Minnesota Opera,

Moody, Mysterious Morel

Long Beach Opera often takes willing audiences on an unexpected journey and such is undeniably the case with its fascinating traversal of The Invention of Morel.

Acis and Galatea: 2018 London Handel Festival

Katie Hawks makes quite a claim for Handel’s Acis and Galatea when, in her programme article, she describes it as the composer’s ‘most perfect work’. Surely, one might feel, this is a somewhat hyperbolic evaluation of a 90-minute pastoral masque, or serenade, based on an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which has its origins in a private entertainment?

Oriana, Fairest Queen: Stile Antico celebrate the life and times of Elizabeth I

Stile Antico’s lunchtime play-list, celebrating the Virgin Queen’s long reign, shuffled between sacred and secular works, from penitential to patriotic, from sensual to celebratory.

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.



Nazan Fikret (Flora) [© Neil Libbert]
11 Dec 2007

The Turn of the Screw at ENO

Not long ago, English National Opera declared an intention to capitalise on its name and history by placing greater emphasis on English works.

Benjamin Britten: The Turn of the Screw

English National Opera, London
30 November 2007

Above: Nazan Fikret (Flora)
All photos © Neil Libbert


We have already seen Purcell's 'King Arthur' and Vaughan Williams's 'Sir John in Love' (with the same composer's 'Riders to the Sea' to follow next season) but the composer playing the largest part in this revival of the English operatic repertoire is Benjamin Britten. The operas covered so far – 'Billy Budd' and 'Death in Venice' – have proved some of ENO's greatest successes of the last two seasons, and this latest co-production of 'The Turn of the Screw' with the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg (where it premiered in 2006), is no exception.

Director David McVicar, always good at exploring themes of corrupted innocence, views the story's central ambiguities from an unusual angle by attributing the evil forces to the children rather than the ghosts. Rather than being innocents possessed by an evil force, or blank slates ripe for the overworkings of the Governess's imagination, these two children were quite clearly the principal malevolent influence in this drama, and the source of the ghosts' powers from the start. In front of Mrs Grose they were little angels, but whenever her back was turned they were engaging in subversive rites: turning Flora's doll into a pig, digging a grave for the same doll while singing their cherubic Benedicite, and – in Miles's case – making sexual advances towards the Governess.

And yet McVicar still threw in a note of doubt; for example, the schoolroom scene between the Governess and Miss Jessel was not a dialogue, as it is often played, but two independent monologues, suggesting that neither woman has a greater foothold in reality than the other. Chillingly, despite the obviously menacing character of the children, the audience was still seduced into siding with them. The characters' relationships with one another and with the audience are carefully and intricately designed, but somehow the audience never feels overtly manipulated – just disturbed.

The silent cast of walk-on servants, fast becoming one of McVicar's production trademarks, were ever-present as scene-shifters, and went some way towards addressing the issue of creating a suitably intimate, claustrophobic atmosphere in a theatre the size of the Coliseum. When the giant sliding windows of the set shifted, the creakiness – which was, I suspect, unintentional – served only to crank up the atmosphere, to which Garry Walker's taut conducting was an ideal musical counterpart.

George Longworth (Miles*) / Rebecca Evans (Governess)George Longworth (Miles (press night performance)) / Rebecca Evans (Governess)

Rebecca Evans sang beautifully as the Governess, though her diction was far from clear; the honeyed sweetness of her voice and liveliness of her demeanour made for a particularly unsettling contrast with the children's poised coldness and the monochrome darkness of the set and costumes. Timothy Robinson's Quint, was lean, hungry, feeding off Miles's energy; Cheryl Barker's Miss Jessel used the intensity of her presence to suck the warmth out of the atmosphere whenever she was on stage. Singing her first Mrs Grose, Ann Murray's characterisation and diction were excellent even if her mezzo really is very shrill on top these days. The two children – the excellent second-cast Miles, 12-year-old Jacob Moriarty, and Guildhall undergraduate Nazan Fikret as a Flora in fairly advanced adolescence – were really first-class.

The result was an evening which left a chill in the air and, for the right reasons, a nasty taste in the mouth.

Ruth Elleson © 2007

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):