Oberlin Opera Theater Presents Britten’s Ghostly Turn of the Screw for 4 Performances March 7-11

February 22, 2018

By Erich Burnett

graphic design of Turn of the Screw

Adaptation of the Henry James novella retains the original's atmospheric frights; tickets and opera brunch packages are available now.


One of the unlikely charms of The Turn of the Screw is the fact that the 19th-century ghost story feels more timely—and more chilling—today than it might have at the time of its writing.

Henry James’ 1898 novella, about two orphaned children in the care of a governess in a remote English mansion, was adapted for the operatic stage by Benjamin Britten in 1954—a process through which the tale lost none of its creepy allure.

When frightening visions begin to appear around the manor, the governess grows increasingly concerned for the children’s safety—and for her own. As the children’s behavior grows ever more startling, an overwhelming sense of foreboding settles in.

Oberlin Opera Theater will present The Turn of the Screw, with libretto by Myfanwy Piper, for four performances at Hall Auditorium, March 7 through 11.

“The governess comes into this experience thinking that her innocence is going to be the standard that she can bear into battle that will shield her from the maliciousness of these spirits,” says director Jonathon Field. “She finds out that innocence in and of itself is not enough—she tries to save the children’s innocence at the cost of her own.”

Britten’s opera will be brought to life by Oberlin’s outstanding cast of student singers and by the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Christopher Larkin.

The Turn of the Screw is the third work by Britten to be produced by Field and Oberlin Opera Theater in recent years, following the comedy Albert Herring (presented in 2014) and the tragedy The Rape of Lucretia (2015).

"The thing I love so much about Britten is that he is the master of theatrical style,” says Field. “He can write tragic pieces. He can write spooky horror-gothic pieces. He can write comedy. He can do Shakespeare. I’m always impressed that if you just do what Britten says on the page to do, it will come out right.”

The Turn of the Screw opens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 7. It continues with 8 p.m. performances Friday and Saturday, March 9 and 10, and concludes with a 2 p.m. show Sunday, March 11.

Tickets are $10 ($8 for students), available by calling 800-371-0178, online, or at Hall Auditorium’s Central Ticket Service from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The March 11 matinee will be preceded by an “opera brunch” that begins at the Hotel at Oberlin. The $25 price per person includes brunch with a presentation about the production led by Field, an exclusive backstage tour of Hall Auditorium, and a ticket to either the Saturday night or Sunday performance.

Advance reservations are required and can be made by calling 440-775-7001, ext. 604. Additional details about packages that include a room at the hotel are available at the Hotel at Oberlin website.

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