Review: Israeli Opera, The Turn of the Screw

The cast is mostly outstanding, the orchestra creates the mood, though too often overshadowing the singers’ voices.

Opera370 (photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)
(photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)
Benjamin Britten’s opera The Turn of the Screw (translated unaccountably into Hebrew as “The Ring of Choke”) is a masterpiece of ambiguity.
Whether the visitants are real or ghosts; whether they are ghosts or imaginary visions proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain of the Governess; whether they target the children or the Governess or both; whether the Governess is normal or psychic; whether the boy is killed by the ghost or by the Governess or dies a natural death by sudden stroke – all these disturbing questions are left without unequivocal answers, and continue to trouble the spectator on his uneasy way home.
Alessandro Talevi’s direction is, perhaps intentionally, as confusing as the plot. Performing mainly in chiaroscuro, it is often almost impossible to distinguish who is who. All this results in an increasingly unwholesome atmosphere that perfectly suits the opera’s content.
Matthew Haskins’ lighting is sharply effective, particularly his impressive shadow-play.
The cast is mostly outstanding. As the Governess, Sinead Mulhern’s bright, intense soprano, though, inclines too much toward hysterical expression that does not quite suit this basically innocent yet emotionally unstable character.
In the role of Peter Quint, tenor Robert McPherson’s melismatic calls of Miles’ name sounded as eerily seductive as they are presumably intended to be. His violent demand to take the letter is pronounced just as frighteningly to Miles as to the audience. The work’s central idea, “The Ceremony of Innocence is drowned,” is intoned most poignantly.
Julie Mellor’s reassuring mezzosoprano convincingly represented Mrs. Grose, though occasionally more theatrically than this commonplace housekeeper’s role requires. In the role of Miles, boy soprano Harry Oakes admirably managed to give his voice the uncanny flavor that his supposedly innocent song melody suggests.
Shira Patshornik’s appealing soprano, as Flora, sounded more professional and polished than one expects of a young girl.
Miles’ final outcry of Peter Quint’s name, however, was an anticlimax, instead of the opera’s shattering climax.
His desperately and clearly pronounced strong exclamation was diluted to an insignificant afterthought, drowned in the surrounding din.
The Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion’s 13 members persuasively created the work’s somber,uncanny mood and dramatic moments under David Stern’s direction, though too often overshadowing the singers’ voices and