The Turn of the Screw at SF Lyric
May 31, 2008
* Notes *
San Francisco Lyric Opera's production of The Turn of the Screw opened last night at Cowell Theatre. The singing was very good all across the board. Interestingly, half of the singers were also in the Oakland Opera Theater production from last October. Brooks Fisher (Miles) has grown quite a bit in the intervening months, he is now taller than Madelaine Matej (Flora). His angelic voice is somewhat louder now, but there were a few brief moments when he was difficult to hear because of the orchestra. It may have been better if he was not so far upstage when singing with all of the instruments. Madelaine Matej sounded slightly flat during the end of Act I, but was otherwise fine, her volume was always good, and her acting was strong. Soprano Lara Bruckmann did not make much impression on me as Miss Jessel, but perhaps this was because tenor Trey Costerisan was so splendid as Peter Quint. Costerisan's voice is exceedingly pretty, both warm and brilliant. Kathleen Moss, who just sang Judith with Berkeley Opera, was occasionally overwhelming as Mrs. Grose, as her voice was the most powerful in the cast. Moss was able to rein it in for the most part, and her acting was convincing. Anja Strauss was impressive in the principal role, her Governess is certainly on the frightening, hysterical side. Her tones were lucid and crystalline. The orchestra played well under the direction of Barnaby Palmer, the musicians were perfectly synchronized with each other and with the singers. The only disappointment was keyboard used instead of a real piano. The keyboard was noticeable, it sounded strange.
The production was not as creepy as the one at Oakland Opera Theater, perhaps because of the choreography and stage direction. The ending was a bit weird in this regard, it would be hard to understand exactly what was happening if one had not read Henry James' novella. As far as the scenery was concerned, the projections used were great when static, but whenever they were used to portray the spectral or mad, they veered into unintentional tackiness. At one point in Act II, a heretofore static window projection multiplied and warped, and the effect was just silly and not scary at all. Thankfully, the background was easy to ignore, as it was not in constant motion, and the otherworldliness came out best in the music. Also, Meghan Muser's costumes were a fine distraction, every one of the outfits was absolutely gorgeous.
* Tattling *
One person booed stage director Heather Carolo, presumably because he did not like the ending. Also, the charming person who sang along to La Bohème was there again, right next to me, as we both have subscriptions. I was able to shift one seat away from her, as the theater was half empty. She is, apparently, not terribly familiar with the work of Benjamin Britten, and was unable to accompany the singers. She did have fun during the intermission listing which operas of Britten she could remember, naming five out of fourteen, I could hardly do better. She also declared it a shame that so few people had turned out and mentioned that Joshua Kosman would be reviewing this Sunday's performance. However, the music is disquieting and is meant to make one feel uncomfortable, which is certainly not for everyone.