Opera Baltimore, previously generally known as Baltimore Live performance Opera, introduced Benjamin Britten’s Flip of the Screw Friday night time in Mount Vernon’s Garret-Jacobs mansion, now residence to the Engineers’ Membership. Regardless of the constraints of a semi-staged efficiency, robust vocal performances left a lot to get pleasure from on this presentation of certainly one of Britten’s most haunting creations.
The 1954 chamber opera dramatizes Henry James’ 1898 gothic horror novella a couple of younger governor delivered to a manor home by the absent guardian of youngsters Miles and Flora. Alone with the kids and the manor’s ageing housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, the governess descends into growing hysteria as she encounters the malignant spirits of the property’s former valet and governess, Peter Quint and Miss Jessel. The story invitations a number of interpretations as whether or not these are precise supernatural occasions or the delusions of the governance.
Britten’s ingenious rating incorporates a variety of parts, from nods to atonality (within the tone row that serves as a theme all through the piece) to snippets of folks songs and Anglican church music and bravura vocal writing. Britten and librettist Myfanwy Piper absolutely understand the spirits as singing characters, whereas preserving the weather of doubt within the story and leaving the viewers to query what we’re witnessing.
For this Flip of the Screw, Opera Baltimore took a “semi-staged” method, counting on the mansion’s gilded ballroom house so as to add visible pleasure. However the semi-staged method brings its personal challenges relative to the live performance format, as seen right here.
Director Catrin Davies discovered occasional attention-grabbing makes use of of the house, particularly within the supernatural sequences. But a lot of the motion was staged in a straight ahead method on the small band stage on the finish of the ballroom, leaving lengthy stretches that inevitably felt a bit like a faculty or church play, regardless of the professionals onstage.
The place the constraints of a standard live performance format can free singers to take a position extra of their vocal efficiency, the semi-staged method appeared to make the solid extra cautious at occasions, particularly within the first Act, the place they wanted to navigate awkward blocking and transitions in a cramped house. Missing the cues of both a totally staged manufacturing or the readability of a live performance setting, the solid additionally had problem converging on a typical dramatic degree.
Colleen Daly, because the unnamed Governess, took a while to hit her stride through the slow-burn first Act, with straining within the higher register and a few challenges bringing the character’s solo scenes to life. Act 2 discovered her way more snug, displaying a cool, placing soprano voice within the Governess’s compelling moments monologue despairing about Flora’s flip de ella towards her de ella and her de ella last alternate de ella with Miles.
As Mrs. Grose, Annie Chester’s vibrant mezzo shone in scenes just like the Act I alternate the place she tells the backstory of the manor, although in the end this felt like a restricted characterization relative to a few of the different performances onstage.
With the arrival of the spirits of Quint and Miss Jessel in the direction of the top of Act 1 Britten introduces a wholly new set of lyrical musical concepts, offsetting the low-key dread and staid home proceedings we have seen up to now.
Norman Shankle and Amanda Sheriff introduced a heady degree of dedication to this music, respiratory recent life and path into the manufacturing. Shankle’s tenor soared in Quint’s ascending vocal traces, delivering an thrilling and classy vocal efficiency, whereas Sherrif provided a malevolent Miss Jessel replete with menacing physicality, her centered soprano chopping by means of the room in Jessel’s high-flying music.
The youngsters in Flip of the Screw are solid with an grownup soprano within the position of Flora, and a juvenile treble voice as Miles. Right here, soprano Robin Steitz made a lot of the position of Flora, bringing a totally realized bodily efficiency and detailed consideration to vocal characterization of the kid’s enigmatic moods, whereas Miles was sweetly sung by Brynn Blair.
Pleasure Schreier had the Herculean process of enjoying the whole rating from the piano, in a dynamic studying that preserved a lot of the music’s drama, although, essentially. sacrificing a few of the environment produced by the complete chamber orchestra. Conductor Michael Sakir ably dealt with coordination between the piano and singers.
The Flip of the Screw will likely be repeated 3 pm Sunday. operabaltimore.org