Britten: The Turn of the Screw

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Benjamin Britten
ALBUM TITLE: Britten The Turn of the Screw
WORKS: The Turn of the Screw
PERFORMER: Miah Persson (soprano), Toby Spence (tenor), Susan Bickley (mezo-soprano), Giselle Allen (soprano), Joanna Songi (soprano), Thomas Parfitt (treble); London Philharmonic Orchestra/Jakob Hrusa; dir. Jonathan Kent (Glyndebourne, 2011)
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: FRA007; Blu-ray: FRA507


The Turn of the Screw has been lucky on DVD – but forget those performances. This Glyndebourne production is streets ahead, even of last year’s differently cast CD version from the same company. At its dark heart lies Jakub Hr∞≥a’s quite astonishing conducting; like all the best interpreters he really does tighten the screw, but he also finds a vast malevolence and a sweeping, eerie beauty beyond Britten’s original. The DVD, too, immerses us in Jonathan Kent’s fast-moving, atmospheric staging, centering on a high glass window that tilts to become sky or lake. His 1950s updating doesn’t seem redundant, perhaps because those years – as remote from us, after all, as the Edwardian era was from Britten – had their own ghostly insecurities.

A cast of first-rate singers infuse their roles with unnerving life. Miah Persson’s gorgeously sung Governess radiates the brittle sweetness of a Listen with Mother announcer, but you feel her terrors aren’t mere hysteria. Toby Spence’s casual contemporary Prologue warps into a sleekly urbane Quint, seductively honeyed in tone but icily contemptuous of Giselle Allen’s plaintive Miss Jessel. Susan Bickley’s warm Mrs Grose brings her fearful revelations to life with restrained Wagnerian power. Most significant, though, are the Miles and Flora of 12-year-old Thomas Parfitt and Joanna Songi, both unsettlingly credible in their growing awareness. Altogether, one of the finest opera performances on DVD. Buy it.


Michael Scott Rohan