“The Turn of the Screw” presented by Opera Moderne at Symphony Space

Symphony Space, the fine facility on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is home – among many other groups – to Opera Moderne, which specializes in chamber opera of reasonable recency.  Last night they presented "The Turn of the Screw," a chamber opera by Benjamin Britten based on a ghost story by Henry James.  With a handful of props, imaginative costumes and projections, they managed to put on a creditable production of this challenging opera.  The well-rehearsed chamber ensemble was well -directed by Pacien Mazzagatti, and the stage direction by Luke Leonard efficiently presented the ghostly story.

The cast seemed well up to the challenges.  Glenn Seven Allen, as Peter Quint, and Elspeth Davis, as Miss Jessel (or, rather these performers impersonating the ghosts of same) were suitably haunting and gave a spark of excitement every time they appeared on the stage.  Their balletic doubles, Jay Gaussoin and Ruth Shepard, added true menace to the action.  Anna Noggle starred as the governess, and coped valiantly with the technically challenging role.  Julia Teitel as Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper, projected a wide range of emotions through her gestures and song.  The two children, Miles and Flora, were exceptionally well captured by Benjamin P. Wenzelberg and Vivan Krich-Brinton.

Indeed, the only real fault one could find would be with whoever was running the projected titles.  I'm not sure whether this was a case of inadequate rehearsal, inattention, or merely an inability to hear what the singers were singing from the back of the hall, but the projections frequently fell out of sync with the stage action.  Since the opera was sung in English, this was not too much of a problem, as Britten has the knack for setting English in a way that is usually understandable without the aid of titles.  But having titles projected that don't match what is being sung can be a distraction.

This was my first time attending a performance by Opera Moderne, but I do not intend it to be the last.

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