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The Turn of the Screw - Die Drehung der Schraube (1990)

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(libretto), (novel)
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Title: The Turn of the Screw - Die Drehung der Schraube (TV Movie 1990)

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Cast overview:
Richard Greager ...
Helen Field ...
Sam Linay ...
Machiko Obata ...
Menai Davies ...
Phyllis Cannan ...


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As good as might be expected
26 September 2004 | by (New York, NY) – See all my reviews

I've had mixed feelings about this chamber opera since I first saw it. Britten had a fine sense of the dramatic and a wonderful ear for sonorities. But opera is also melody and this is where, in my opinion, he falls down. Though the lines are well constructed, the vocal lines are just not interesting and I, for one, come away feeling rather unsatisfied with the whole thing.

I also have long wondered about the wisdom of having singing ghosts who are generally silent in non-operatic versions.

Steuart Bedford, the conductor here, is the next best thing to having Britten on the podium and, indeed, he took over for Britten when he was too ill to conduct Death in Venice, his last opera. But, many years before, Britten did a complete recording of "Turn of the Screw" in glorious mono.

Britten's original cast had his life partner, Peter Pears, as Peter Quint as well as the prologue. Sir Peter therefore was authoritative in the part but Richard Greager does as well as possible under the circumstances. Helen Field is the unnamed governess played by Jennifer Vyvyan in the original and on the recording (all done by the original cast I believe.) and she too does what she can. Sam Linay is the boy Miles played on the original by David Hemmings (Yes, him!) who was incomparable. Machiko Obata played Flora (Olive Dyer), Menai Davies was the well-upholstered housekeeper Mrs. Grose (Joan Cross) and Phyllis Cannan was the female ghost Miss Jessel. (Arda Mandikian.)

This version, incidentally, is much more successful than that strange dubbed Czech version shot in and around on a real manor (1982, directed by Petr Weigl with mostly English singers.) which basically left too little to the imagination.

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