Tonight is the final performance of Claus Guth’s powerful new production of Benjamin Britten’s gothic chamber opera “The Turn of the Screw.” The second premiere of the Staatsoper’s 2014-15 season, it stands head and shoulders above the lackluster season-opener of “Tosca,” dully directed by Alvis Hermanis.
Guth’s staging features a frequently rotating set to reveal the unnatural goings on in the Victorian manor Bly. Guth raises – and quite possibly endorses – the conclusion that the terror of Henry James’ ghost story is purely psychological: the delusions of a sexually repressed Governess, sung here by a fantastic Emma Bell. Like the rest of the cast, Bell is fluent in Britten’s conversational idiom and her performance derives much power from stellar vocal acting.
The ghostly pair of Peter Quint and Miss Jessell are inhabited (offstage) by Richard Croft and Anna Samuil, both suitably otherworldly and forlorn. Marie McLaughlin is a wonderfully ambiguous Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper in possession of Bly’s frightful secret. calumnious history.
The most exciting performances, however, are those of the children Miles and Flora. Sonia Grané, a young Portuguese soprano, is deliciously mischievous. Thomas Lichtenecker, an otherworld countertenor, is eerie and forlorn as Miles. And the 13-piece orchestra, led by Ivor Bolton does justice to Britten’s churning and tortuous score.