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Britten: The Turn of the Screw (DVD)

Robert Murray, Rhian Lois, Leo Jermison, Alys Mereld Roberts, Gweneth Ann Rand, Francesca Chiejina; Sinfonia of London/John Wilson (Chandos / DVD)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
DVD_CHDVD5290_Britten

Britten
The Turn of the Screw (DVD)
Robert Murray, Rhian Lois, Leo Jermison, Alys Mereld Roberts, Gweneth Ann Rand, Francesca Chiejina; Sinfonia of London/John Wilson
Chandos CHDVD 5290   112:46 mins

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This OperaGlass Works production was planned for actual staging in Wilton’s Music Hall in Shadwell. When Covid intervened, the company decided to film it instead, not only utilising the full auditorium but every balcony and dark passageway of the building’s artfully restored dilapidation. In addition to the cast in their early Victorian costumes, we catch fleeting glimpses of camera operators, conductor or individual instrumentalists in odd corners, as if covertly complicit in the action.

The production by Selina Cadell and Eliza Thompson has its puzzles: why does Miles mime his piano playing on a music stand when a real piano is just feet away; and why, at the end, does he fall into a reverie rather than die, while it is the Governess who sinks to the stage? But the mounting horror of the piece is effectively conveyed.

It is also strongly cast. Robert Murray is as immaculate of diction in the Prologue as he is seductively lyrical as the ghostly Quint. Rhian Lois’s every inflection and gesture projects the Governess’s barely controlled hysteria. Thirteen-year old Leo Jemison not only sings Miles to perfection but suggests inner torment through his very stillness of manner. Gweneth Ann Rand is a warmly sympathetic Mrs Grose; Alys Mererid Roberts a wildly impetuous Flora and Francesca Chiejina looms forlornly as the unfortunate Miss Jessel. John Wilson conducts 13 members of his Sinfonia of London with needle-sharp definition in tempos close to Britten’s own classic 1955 recording, and the Chandos recording enhances this haunting opera’s eerie fragility of sound.

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Bayan Northcott