Turn of the Screw opera an entertaining ghost story

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The Turn of the Screw sweeps you along with its suspenseful tale of possession, innocence, passion and death. There are deep dramatic themes to ponder if you so choose, but no need to do so if you’re simply looking for a good, entertaining ghost story. It is, as one of the undead characters himself says, “easy to take.”

The directors and cast agree: this is a spectacular production, one of the biggest and most elaborate in the history of Don Wright Faculty of Music opera productions. It includes singers from across the country – including some of the best emerging young Canadian artists.

The veteran stage manager of opera productions at Western, Adam Iannetta,notes “…with every passing year the challenges become increasingly difficult because the shows keep getting bigger and better.” This production with full orchestra, sets and costumes is certainly the case

Two of the double-cast members in a leading role are Brianna DeSantis from Windsor and Sarah Walsh from Whitby. They both love the role of the Governess whose many layers develop and change. At face value, the Governess grows her role while in contact with veritable ghosts; or it can be more of a psychological thriller where the action we see takes place inside her head. Both DeSantis and Walsh read the Henry James novel, The Turn of the Screw, on which the story is based and found it challenging, but perfectly written for the voice.

The audience needs to remember this is the memoir of a mystery. In the original novella, the narrator regales his friends by reading a journal, written by a terrified woman who was found huddled with a dead boy many years in the past. The story neither promises nor delivers answers nor accuracy, and that’s as it should be. If we pause to remember moments of great emotional intensity in our lives, the prism of memory heightens, refracts and distorts the events to such a degree that sometimes we ourselves question what really happened. Imagine the incredible pressure a young guardian of innocents must feel when she sees threats to them, and herself, closing in at every turn?

This performance will leave the audience pondering the mysteries of human nature and the power of memory itself.

Production summary and commentary provided by operatic studies director Professor Theodore Baerg with input from stage director Michael Cavanagh; principal cast members and current students Brianna DeSantis and Sarah Walsh; and stage manager and current student Adam Iannetta

If you go:

  • The Turn of the Screw opera by Benjamin Britten (libretto by Myfanwy Piper) at Western University
  • November 15 & 16 at 8 p.m. and weekend matinees November 17 & 18 at 2 p.m.
  • Paul Davenport Theatre, Talbot College, Western University
  • Tickets: $30/20 in advance – call 519-672-8800 to purchase or visit website http://music.uwo.ca/events/opera.html to purchase online
  • General event inquiries (including media): 519-661-3767
  • Run time: 2 hours (including intermission)