Stony Brook Opera Presents 

Benjamin Britten's

THE TURN OF THE SCREW

Saturday, April 26 at 8:00 PM
Sunday, April 27 at 3:00 PM
Main Stage | Staller Center for the Arts

Equal parts Victorian-era ghost tale and psychological tragedy, The Turn of the Screw recounts the fate of two orphaned children and their Governess in an English countryside mansion where supernatural haunts and real dangers await. Though modernized in movies such as “The Others” (2001), Stony Brook’s production of The Turn of the Screw focuses on the story’s literary origins—the novella of Henry James, published in 1898—where interpretive ambiguities have driven over a century of analysis by audiences, fans, and scholars. The opera will be directed by JJ Hudson and conducted by Timothy Long, associate professor of music at Stony Brook University.

Peter Dean Beck, the production’s set and lighting designer, uses technological effects to bring this eerie ghost story to the stage. Adorning a set of modular platforms, long, sheer drapes will create a stunning backdrop for projected images that harkens to the era’s impressive Gothic architecture and blurs the division between the living and deceased. In effect, the entire stage serves as a projection screen. Costumes by Sidney Shannon will complement the scene.

Turn of the Screw"Visually I think this will be one of the most exciting shows we have ever done,” says David Lawton, artistic director of the Stony Brook Opera. “Sidney Shannon's gorgeous costumes will be in Victorian style, to fit the period of the story. Peter Dean Beck's unit set ingeniously uses projections to change the locale of the action almost instantaneously, from downtown London, to the Bly estate, to the adjacent lake, and the bedroom. In an eerie fashion the set also suggests the separation of the world of the ghosts from that of the living characters, with terrifying effect when the boundaries are crossed."

Notable is that the 2013-14 season marks Britten’s centenary and Stony Brook’s production joins an international effort to celebrate the English composer (www.britten100.org). Britten’s score, written for a 13-member chamber orchestra, is evocative and atmospheric with an impressive musical architecture in which the sixteen scenes of the opera are cast in the form of a theme and fifteen variations. Along with his expressive vocal writing, Britten also used several modernized compositional techniques, along side British children’s nursery rhymes, in ways both accessible and integral to the storytelling.

The plot takes place in Bly, an English country house, during the middle of the 19th century. The guardian of two orphaned children, Flora and Miles, has hired a young Governess to tutor them at the estate. Not long after her arrival, the Governess encounters the ghosts of Peter Quint, who had been the guardian’s valet, and Miss Jessel, the children’s former governess. Before their deaths, Quint and Miss Jessel had carried on an illicit affair. The new Governess does all she can to prevent the two ghosts from possessing Miles and Flora. Although the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose succeeds in taking Flora away, in the end Quint’s ghost claims Miles, who dies in the Governess’ arms. Myfanwy Piper wrote the libretto and the opera premiered in 1954.

The cast features graduate and undergraduate vocal students in the music department, many whom are established professional singers. Soprano Victoria Browers, who took part in the prestigious Britten-Pears Young Artist Program (the official foundation that promotes Britten’s works), performs the role of the Governess; Christopher Reames appears as Peter Quint; mezzo soprano Gloria Park portrays the ghost Miss Jessel; and mezzo soprano Kristin Starkey debuts as the housekeeper Mrs. Grose. The roles of the two children, Flora and Miles, will be sung respectively by sopranos Jennifer Sung and Suzanne Di Gioia.

Tickets for The Turn of the Screw are $20 general, $15 for students and senior citizens and are available at the Staller Center Box Office. There will be free pre-opera lectures by George Fisher in the Recital Hall one hour before the performance (7 p.m. on Saturday, April 26, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 27). For tickets call (631) 632-ARTS or online at www.stallercenter.com. For more information call the Department of Music at (631) 632-7330.

 
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