The Turn of the Screw, an opera based on Henry James’ gothic novella with an intense orchestral score for 13 players, is to be performed later this year.
Aylesbury Opera will present a cast of six local singers, including an Aylesbury Grammar School boy.
The production will be staged at the Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School in October, with the assistance and collaboration of their pupils helping with stage and lighting design, costumes and make up.
The opera is set in late nineteenth century England. An unnamed governess travels to an isolated country house, hired by a mysterious guardian to care for two orphaned children. What follows is a series of increasingly ominous encounters with “the others” - menacing spirits of the manor’s previous staff. Are the ghosts supernatural in origin, or are they the products of her overactive imagination? Britten’s seductive, luminous, and brilliantly structured score utilizes a variety of musical expression. A tantalisingly veiled portrait of psychological disintegration, with tangible tension throughout.
Leading the cast is soprano Fiona Haynes who plays the Governess, around whom the story revolves. Fiona was born and raised in Bucks and is an alumnus of Wycombe Music Centre. She went on to pursue her vocal studies at The Royal College of Music and is now at the outset of a professional career.
She said: “The Governess is a gem of a role to play. She’s full of self-doubt to begin with, but is reassured by her first impressions of the house and the two beautiful children. She’s then tested to the limit by the passage of events, the vocal writing brings it all out – I’m really looking forward to portraying her journey as a character.”
Twelve year-old Sam Wright from Granborough, near Winslow, will be playing Miles, one of the two juvenile leads. Currently in Year 8 at Aylesbury Grammar School, he sings in the school’s Choral Society and is taught by Judith Sheridan. Sam has previously sung in local productions of Bugsy Malone and Les Misérables – this is his first foray into opera.
This production also marks a return to the town for Aylesbury Opera (formerly Aylesbury Opera Group) which has not presented staged productions in Aylesbury since the closure of the Civic Centre. The society still rehearses in Aylesbury at Holy Trinity Church on Monday evenings but performs its staged operas in Tring.
The Turn of the Screw is directed by Rosalie Sadler, who has been involved in many of the group’s productions over its 40-year history.
The conductor is Kelvin Lim, Aylesbury Opera’s Musical Director and Co-Director of Post Graduate Opera Studies at Trinity College of Music in London.
Kelvin said, “I love Britten’s ability to write for the voice and the way he sets words, both in opera and song. This score [The Turn of the Screw] is so powerful – you can’t help but be totally immersed in the drama.”
The Floyd has longstanding specialist school status as a Performing Arts College, a natural setting for staging opera. The pupils are involved in both the lighting and stage design and construction, as well as the wardrobe and make-up, ensuring the all-important look and feel of this highly claustrophobic piece of theatre is pitch perfect.
The Turn of the Screw is on at 7.30pm on Friday October 19 and Saturday October 20.
Tickets £20 from 07725 868092 or online at: www.ticketsource.co.uk/aylesbury-opera