Britten: The Turn of the Screw

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Glyndebourne
WORKS: The Turn of the Screw
PERFORMER: William Burden, Camilla Tilling, Joanna Songi, Christopher Sladdin, Anne-Marie Owens, Emma Bell; London PO/Edward Gardner

A very live recording, this, of Glyndebourne’s gripping production of Britten’s Henry James opera. We hear the haunted children’s troubling laughter, their footfall, the rough and tumble of their games. And there’s a sense of shifting distances and ambient sound out of which Peter Quint’s and Miles’s melismas arise. The recording splendidly captures the breath and the pulse, the gut and the nerve-system of the small band of London Philharmonic players, conducted with a thrilling precision of rhythm, transparency of texture and horrifyingly inexorability of momentum by Edward Gardner.
From the first frisson of Andrew Smith’s potent, later demonic, piano playing, we are drawn into the plight of every character, every voice. Camilla Tilling’s luminous soprano portrays a youthful Governess, her voice growing and flaring into desperation, fear and possessiveness. For her counterpart, Miss Jessel, Emma Bell offers a sensuous and dark soprano, lost in her labyrinth, and with the agony of her confused amorality eloquent in the gleam of her top register. This Quint is sung with clear and disturbing ‘normality’ by the open-voiced tenor of William Burden, humanly inhuman, and bringing real weight and pulse to his words. Wilfully oblivious to the antics of her charges, Anne-Marie Owens as Mrs Grose sings powerfully, while Joanna Songi’s Flora has an ambiguous, matt-voiced purity of tone, and Christopher Sladdin’s Miles a haunting sadness.
This will be a superb aide-memoire for anyone who saw Jonathan Kent’s production; and a revelatory sound-drama for all those new to it. Hilary Finch