Benjamin Britten’s opera The Turn of the Screw is not exactly family
entertainment, as will become evident to local audiences on Tuesday, when the
production starts an 11-day, seven-show, run at the Israeli Opera House in Tel
The storyline has a definite Hitchcock-esque slant to it, with a
governess, entrusted with caring for two small children in a rambling English
country estate, soon discovering she has far more to contend with that than
merely ensuring that her two young charges, Miles and Flora, are well fed and
dressed – she also has to protect them against some particularly nasty
While there may not be too many kids in the audiences at the
opera house, there will be a couple on stage every night, with English
youngsters 13-year-old Harry Oakes and 12-year-old Dominic Wilson alternating in
the role of Miles. Oakes appreciates that it may not be every youngster’s cup of
tea – with or without milk.
“There are lots of scary bits in it as the
two children become possessed by the ghosts,” he notes. “The suspense just
builds and builds. It starts off all happy but then gets sort of spooky to look
at. In fact, I found it a bit scary myself to begin with.”
quite a seasoned professional, yet, Oakes has already performed in several
productions in Germany, as well as in Britain, but says he is happiest with the
job in hand.
“This is definitely my favorite opera,” he states. “It is so
enjoyable and clever in a musical way. The dramatic side of it is amazing, and
the climax is incredible.”
Oakes also says he is in good professional
“I love the way [South African director] Alessandro [Talevi]
works. He works so efficiently, and with so much detail so everything comes
alive in the rehearsals. He is very inspiring.”
Oakes has been in the
opera business, or thereabouts, for four or five years now.
“I was about
eight or nine when the school I was at recognized I had a good voice, so they
arranged for me to have singing lessons. I really enjoyed it and made progress,
and I started taking part in choral singing.”
Oakes’s vocal abilities
came on in leaps and bounds and he soon won a part in a Royal Opera House
production of Jules Massenet’s Werther.
“That’s really how I got started
in opera,” says Oakes, adding that while he enjoys other genres he is not, for
the moment at least, considering getting into stadium-oriented
“No, I’m not thinking of becoming a rock star,” he laughs,
“although I listen to all kinds of music – pop, a bit of jazz. It’s a sort of
mixture, but not heavy metal.”
Starting an operatic career at such an
early age entails certain physiological considerations that older professionals
don’t have to bother with.
“Yes, my voice will probably change in about a
year and a half or so, and then we’ll just have to see where that takes me,”
For now, the youngster is just happy be in the Middle East,
away from the snow of his native Surrey, just south of London.
been here since January 9 and it’s been amazing here,” he exclaims. “We’ve had
humus and other Israeli food, and we’ve been to the beach – it’s great to be
able to go to the beach in February. Perfect.”
Although he is slightly
less experienced than his older compatriot, Wilson says he is thoroughly
enjoying his role in The Turn of the Screw.
“I like the fact that you
always know what you’re going to get out of this opera, although it can be a bit
unpredictable too. You don’t know how the scenes are going to be set with a new
Wilson says he was thrown in at the deep end, and had to learn
to swim quickly.
“Another boy dropped out and I was offered the role
about two weeks before I came here. Working on the opera, to begin with, was a
bit nerve-wracking. It’s a powerful opera but you soon get used to it, because
everyone here makes you feel welcome, and at home.”
Like Oakes, Wilson
appreciates Britten’s compositional skills.
“There is something about his
music that gives you the sense that he knows how to get into the singer’s head,
and how to anticipate – and give – certain cues to the singers. That makes
everything so much more easy.”
Wilson says he is entirely enamored with
the operatic world but, in his spare time, also grooves to other very different
kinds of sounds and rhythms.
“I love pop music, rap, and reggae and jazz.
I don’t think I can sing jazz but we have a jazz band in school and I play the
piano. That’s fun too.”
In addition to the young English singers there
are plenty of older professionals, both on and off the stage, involved in the
forthcoming production. The conductor’s duties will be shared by David Stern and
Ethan Schmeisser. The soloist roster features Israeli soprano Noa Danon and
British soprano Sinead Mulhern in the role of the governess, tenors Robert
McPherson and Michael Bennet, from Israel and Britain respectively, as Prologue
and Quint – the latter is one of the shadier characters in the story – with
British mezzo-soprano Julie Mellor and her Israeli counterpart Naama Goldman in
the role of Mrs. Grose the housekeeper.
Back on the younger side of the
lineup, the role of Flora will be filled by 19-year-old Israeli-born sopranos
Shira Patshonik and Yarden Susshols. The Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion
will be on hand to provide instrumental support.
For tickets and more
information: (03) 692-777 and www.israel-opera.co.il